Preflight Medical Screenings of Patients
Travel by commercial jet aircraft is a popular, expeditious, safe, and generally affordable mode of transportation for patients with a variety of medical conditions or handicaps. The annual number of patients who travel by air and their medical conditions are not known, although limited data about in-flight morbidity and mortality provide some insights about the spectrum and magnitude of health problems in passengers. Cardiopulmonary and neurologic disorders are the most frequently reported causes of inflight morbidity and mortality. The incidence of in-flight exacerbations of pulmonary disorders is apparently very low, although the number of at-risk pulmonary passengers and the prophylactic role of medical interventions (eg, medications, including oxygen therapy) are unknown.
Preflight evaluation of patients with stable medical conditions or of those who are recovering from illness is considered worthwhile in planning safe and comfortable flights, since travel by commercial aircraft poses environmental and nonenvironmental stresses or demands that may cause or promote adverse health sequelae. Some altitude stresses may be avoided, reduced, or controlled with appropriate interventions; such as reassurance, medications, assisted transportation, and facilities or equipment. For example, the acute hypobaric hypoxia of air travel may potentially stress patients with various cardiopulmonary disorders. Preflight assessment of altitude tolerance is prudent and necessary in hypoxic patients who are suspected or known to require flight-related oxygen therapy, which must be prescribed by the physician. On the other hand, the patient found to be medically unstable for commercial flight should be “grounded” or considered for surface transportation or an air ambulance. Thus, preflight medical screening may assure the patient and physician about the safety of air travel and prevent or minimize in-flight morbidity and emergencies, unscheduled landings or diversions, inconvenience for other passengers, and additional financial costs.
This study reports the demographic, health status, and flight characteristics of a large group of civilian patients who underwent preflight medical screening during a 12-month period. The results of this analysis provide a better understanding about the health status and flight patterns of passengers with various medical conditions.
Category: Preflight Medical Screenings
Tags: antiseizure medications, cardiac disorders, cardiac medications, oxygen therapy