Few medical emergencies on planes end in hospital

US researchers reviewing emergency calls to a medical communications centre from five US and international airlines over 18 months, found a rate of one medical emergency for every 604 flights.

The most common problem was syncope, accounting for nearly 40% of cases, respiratory symptoms (12%) and nausea or vomiting (9.5%).

Among the 11,000 patients studied, a quarter were transported to a hospital. Only 8.6% were admitted – most for stroke, cardiac or respiratory symptoms – and 16 individuals (0.6%) died.