Comparison of inflight first aid performed by cabin crew members and medical volunteers

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Background: Since the number of air travellers, including the elderly and passengers with an underlying disease, is increasing every year, the number of inflight emergency patients is expected to increase as well. We attempted to identify the incidence and types of reported inflight medical incidents and analyse the first aid performed by cabin crew members or medical volunteers in flights by an Asian airline. We also investigated the cases of inflight deaths and aircraft diversions.

Methods: We reviewed the cabin reports and medical records submitted by cabin crew members and inflight medical volunteers from 2009 to 2013.

Results: We found that inflight medical incidents increased annually, with a total of 2818 cases reported. Fifteen cases of inflight deaths and 15 cases of aircraft diversions during this period were also reported. First aid was performed by the cabin crew alone in 52% of the cases and by medical volunteers in 47.8% of the cases. The most commonly reported causes for first aid performed by the cabin crew and medical volunteers were burns and syncope, respectively.

Conclusion: Since burns were one of the common reasons that first aid was provided by the cabin crew, it may be necessary to include first aid treatments for burns in the annual re-qualification training programme. Furthermore, the assessment of unconsciousness and potentially critical respiratory symptoms is very important for cabin crew members because those conditions can lead to inflight deaths and aircraft diversion.

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