Is there a neurologist on this flight?

ST. PAUL, MN Neurological symptoms are the most common medical complaint requiring air-to-ground medical support, second only to cardiovascular problems for emergency landings, according to a study published in the June 25 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. These study findings were part of an assessment to determine if anti-epileptic drugs should be included in emergency medical kits aboard commercial jets.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona, analyzed medical air-to-ground consultations of a major U.S. airline that flies 50 million, or 10 percent, of all U.S. passengers per year. Mayo routinely provides real-time, in-flight consultation to this airline. From 1995 to 2000, there were 2,042 medical incidents, with 312 emergency landings (diversions). Neurological symptoms accounted for the single largest category of medical complaints, with 626 calls (31 percent), resulting in 107 (34%) of the 312 diversions. Dizziness/vertigo was the most common symptom addressed, with seizures and dizziness/vertigo the most common neurological reasons associated with a diversion.

"Not only did we discover that neurological symptoms account for a significant percent of emergency medical diversions," says study author Joseph Sirven, MD, of Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, "We can also now support our recommendation that major airlines carry anti-epileptic drugs in their emergency medical kits."

In addition to causing headaches for airlines and passengers, emergency medical landings are costly. Without taking into account ground ambulance and hospital care, the cost for neurological-related diversions amounts to nearly $9 million a year for U.S. airlines, according to Sirven.

"Given the high cost and inconvenience associated with emergency landings, we would also like to encourage more public health education, as well as flight crew training, to improve in-flight neurological car

Contact: Cheryl Alementi
American Academy of Neurology

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