Table of Contents:
Medical emergencies on board of commercial aircrafts are not comparable with emergencies on the ground. In support of the cabin and cockpit crews as well as physicians travelling as fellow passenger satellite telephone connection (SATphone) facilitating medical consulting services offered by specialized companies is often provided.
In the present survey a total of 1,446 emergency calls from the years 2003 to 2010 on board an aircraft of Deutsche Lufthansa were analyzed retrospectively.
The main diagnosis groups, symptoms and clinical findings leading to SATphone use were heterogeneously distributed. In case of an alternate landing - this had been performed in 94 cases of the analyzed consulting services - cardiological and neurological diseases or symptoms were most likely present.
The emergency calls were made almost exclusively on long haul flights, with the probability of a call being associated with the expected remaining flight time. There were no associations with regard to flight routings or types of aircraft.
The lack of objective criteria in order to characterize the medical events, track the outcome and rate the quality of services provided for affected passengers or patients, respectively, is disappointing. This is true for both, the own analysis as well as published work carried out in comparable international environment.
In conclusion, room for improvement for communication, organization and documentation of medical emergencies on board has been identified. This includes in particular a checklist for structured communication, reliable use of SATphone consultation and documentation of all cases, facilitated by subsequent analysis involving all participating parties.