European Journal of Anaesthesiology

Original Article
(RD) Surgery

In-flight medical emergencies: response of anaesthetists who were passengers on commercial flights

M. G. Booth a1, I. Quasim a1 and J. Kinsella a1
a1 University Department of Anaesthesia, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 8–16 Alexandra Parade, Glasgow, G31 2ER, Scotland

Article author query
booth mg   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
quasim i   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
kinsella j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


All consultants and trainees in anaesthesia in a large teaching hospital were surveyed. Details of the number of flights per year and details of any medical emergencies in which they had been involved were recorded. The mean number of flights per year was 7.1 domestic and 3.4 international. Of the 45 anaesthetists surveyed, 14 had dealt with emergencies in flight, four had dealt with more than one. The minor emergencies (12) included transient ischaemic attacks, abdominal pain and otitis media. The seven serious events included seizures, angina, hypoglycaemic coma, respiratory arrest and two fatal cardiac arrests. No flights were diverted. On only two occasions were their medical qualifications checked. Requests for documentation were unusual. On several occasions the equipment which was available was inadequate. All doctors that responded were insured in the UK and most stated that they would assist Americans on American airlines. Medical emergencies were more likely on long haul flights.

(Published Online August 16 2006)
(Accepted September 1999)

Key Words: emergencies; in flight; anaesthetists.

c1 Correspondence: J. Kinsella.