Fainting commonest of all in-flight medical emergencies

January 24th, 2009 - 3:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 24 (IANS) Fainting is the commonest of all in-flight medical emergencies, according to a new study. Michael Sand led researchers from the Universities of Bochum, Germany, and California at Los Angeles (UCLA), which analysed 10,189 different emergencies reported during flights.

“Although in-flight medical emergencies are rare in general, they can have a significant effect on other passengers and crew, potentially with operational implications for the flight,” he said.

“The breakdown of the various medical emergencies encountered in our study showed that fainting was by far the most frequent medical condition, followed by stomach upsets, and heart conditions,” said Sands.

The study authors found 5,307 cases of fainting (53.5 percent), 926 cases of gastrointestinal problems (8.9 percent) and 509 cases related to a cardiac condition (4.9 percent).

The highly publicised problem of thrombosis accounted for only a half percent of cases, although they do occur most often after a flight, rather than during it.

“Surgical illnesses accounted for a minor percentage of all on-board emergencies. There were 47 cases of thrombosis (0.5 percent), 27 appendicitis cases (0.25 percent) and just one case of gastrointestinal bleeding (less than 0.1 percent). There were two births and 52 deaths.”

The authors highlight that there are major problems with record keeping about in-flight emergencies. Out of 32 airlines approached to take part, 27 did not have the data available, one had data that was unsuitable and two refused to take part due to company policy, said an UCLA release.

“Standardisation of in-flight medical emergency reporting is necessary for further larger studies to be conducted, as the current quality of data is poor,” Sand emphasised.

The study was recently published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Critical Care.

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