Is there a doctor on the plane? A review of in-flight emergencies for the on-board radiologist

Jason D. Vadhan, Karuna M. Raj, Sean D. Raj

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In-flight medical emergencies (IFME) are the acute on-service events involving illness or injury to a passenger with the potential for long-term health compromise. With the continuously rising number of flights available, both domestically and internationally, it is conceivable that the number of IFMEs will similarly continue to rise. Although most of these instances are relatively self-limited, the rare instance of a severe occurrence justifies preparation, both from in-flight staff and healthcare providers traveling on these flights. Given these events' sporadic nature and the variable availability of medical support, all physicians need to understand their in-flight ethical and legal capabilities, the available medical supplies, and the most likely etiologies to manage such situations successfully. Most radiologists rarely utilize the hands-on, clinical skills developed in medical school or internship for emergencies beyond allergic contrast reactions. Therefore, they may not be adept in caring for patients during an IFME. As such, we present a thorough overview and literature review for the radiologist regarding the management of various acute IFMEs, with consideration for ethical and legal precedence and a review of medical equipment available on-board.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-273
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Imaging
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Ethical
  • In-flight medical emergency
  • Legal
  • Plane
  • Radiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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