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February 19, 1982

Medical Aspects of Transportation Aboard Commercial Aircraft

Author Affiliations

From the Commission on Emergency Medical Services, American Medical Association, Chicago.

JAMA. 1982;247(7):1007-1011. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320320043028

AIR TRANSPORTATION is relatively safe: the death rate during flight for the period 1976 to 1979 was one per 6.4 million revenue passengers, with approximately one flight diversion for medical reasons per 10,000 scheduled flights. However, the incidence of nonfatal medical emergencies is unknown. Transport by air of patients who are not critically ill is expeditious, safe, comfortable, and convenient.

Airline travel presents two major problems to the medical profession: (1) What advice should be given to a patient who wishes to travel by air? (2) How should the physician respond to emergencies that arise during a flight on which the physician himself is a passenger, and how are common in-flight emergencies handled?

Following is a brief review of the principles of high-altitude flight, the potential effects on medical and surgical conditions, and recommendations for care of problems that occur in flight.