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May 18, 2011

Navigating the Challenges of In-flight Emergencies

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

JAMA. 2011;305(19):2003-2004. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.618

As the flight begins its descent, a call comes over the intercom: “Is there a physician on board?” Three internists traveling together to a meeting respond. A woman has lost consciousness. She is incontinent and unresponsive, with a strong pulse and intermittent breathing. The physicians ultimately determine the patient has hypoglycemia and a seizure. It takes multiple requests before the flight attendants provide the physicians with the emergency medical kit. When the kit arrives, the flight attendants disappear, and the physicians search in vain for glucagon or intravenous dextrose. The physicians massage oral glucose gel into the patient's buccal mucosa, and the seizure eventually stops. After landing, the cabin crew records the names and contact information of the physicians, with no discussion of the incident.

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