FRIDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- The airline industry needs to
standardize procedures and equipment for in-flight medical
emergencies, according to two American doctors.
Over a five-year period, European airlines identified 10,000
in-flight medical emergencies, but the issue doesn't get the
attention it deserves, said Dr. Melissa Mattison and Dr. Mark
Zeidel, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, authors
of a study to be published May 11 in the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
The airlines' focus on preventing crashes and near misses means
that "most individual flight attendants will never experience an
emergency landing or evacuation during their careers," the authors
wrote in a medical center news release.
"By contrast, in-flight medical emergencies occur frequently," they added. "Yet the kinds of approaches that have improved flight safety have not been extended to providing optimal care for passengers who become acutely ill while on board airplanes."
While emergency medical kits on passenger aircraft must contain
certain medications and equipment, the actual contents of the kits
vary by airline, the doctors said. They also noted that U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration requires flight attendants to be
trained in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators,
yet does not require standard curriculum or testing.
This means that physicians who have to deal with in-flight
emergencies face a number of challenges, including having to work
in cramped spaces, using emergency medical kits with unfamiliar,
inadequate and poorly organized contents, and dealing with flight
crews who don't know how best to assist doctors.
The authors outlined a four-step plan to improve the handling of
in-flight emergencies. It includes:
- A standardized system for recording all in-flight medical
emergencies and mandatory reporting of each incident.
- Expert recommendations for developing a standardized emergency
- Enhanced and standardized training for flight attendants.
- Ensuring that standardized flight crew communication with
ground-to-air medical support is available on all flights when no
health-care professionals are available.
The American College of Emergency Physicians advises doctors to
be prepared for in-flight medical emergencies.