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Fainting Most Common Medical Crisis on Planes
Date:2/27/2009

But researchers note that exact in-flight medical emergency numbers hard to find

FRIDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of the medical emergencies that occur on airplane flights involve fainting, a new study shows, but the researchers note that a lack of good data on such cases makes it hard to know how to best protect passengers in the future.

Researchers requested in-flight emergency data from 32 European airlines, although only four of the airlines had the data, and only two of those participated in the study. What they discovered: 53.5 percent of incidents involved fainting; 9 percent dealt with gastrointestinal problems; and about 5 percent experienced cardiac events. Of the flights studied, 52 people died while on a plane, and two babies were born.

However, these numbers were hardly comprehensive, they added.

"There were very big differences between the airlines," said study author Dr. Michael Sand, of the department of general and visceral surgery at the Augusta Krankenanstalt, Academic Teaching Hospital at Ruhr-University Bochum, in Germany. "Some were documenting very precisely, some very bad or not at all."

The report was published in a recent issue of Critical Care.

"The problem with most of these studies is largely that the data is not recorded in any consistent form, and there's no common definition of any of these medical conditions," said Katherine Andrus, assistant general counsel of the Air Transport Association. "It makes it difficult to compare data across different airlines and across different countries."

"I think airlines should think about documenting in-flight emergencies in a standardized manner to have better data in the future," said Sand. "Based on this data, one could facilitate the design of in-flight emergency kits and give advice to chronically ill patients who are more likely to have an emergency while in the air."

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