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Free Content Prognostic Factors for Outcomes of In-Flight Sudden Cardiac Arrest on Commercial Airlines

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BACKGROUND: In-flight cardiac arrest (IFCA) is a relatively rare but challenging event. Outcomes and prognostic factors are not entirely understood for victims of IFCAs in commercial aviation.

METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of airline passengers who experienced IFCA. Demographic and operational variables were studied to identify association in a multivariate logistic regression model with the outcome of survival-to-hospital. In-flight medical emergencies were processed by a ground-based medical center. Subsequent comparisons were made between reported shockable-rhythm (RSR) and reported non-shockable-rhythm (RNSR) groups. Logistic regression was also used to identify predictors for shock advised and flight diversions using a case control study design. Significant predictors for survival-to-hospital were RSR and remaining flight time to destination.

RESULTS: The percentage of RSR cases was 24.6%. The survival to hospital admission was 22.7% (22/97) for passengers in RSR compared with 2.4% (7/297) in the RNSR group. The adjusted odds ratio for survival-to-hospital for the RSR group compared to the RNSR group was 13.6 (5.5–33.5). The model showed odds for survival to hospital decreased with longer scheduled remaining flight duration with adjusted OR = 0.701 (0.535–0.920) per hour increase. No correlation between diversions and survival for RSR cases was found.

CONCLUSIONS: Survival-to-hospital from IFCAs is best when an RSR is present. The percentage of RSR cases was lower than in other out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) settings, which suggests delayed discovery. Flight diversions did not significantly affect resuscitation outcome. We emphasize good quality cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early defibrillation as key factors for IFCA survival.

Alves PM, DeJohn CA, Ricaurte EM, Mills WD. Prognostic factors for outcomes of in-flight sudden cardiac arrest on commercial airlines. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(10):862–868.

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Keywords: cardiopulmonary resuscitation; defibrillation; heart arrest; survival

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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