Emergency Medical Equipement Available On Commercial Flights

Have you ever been curious what medical equipment is available if you were involved in an in-flight medical emergency?  I’ll admit that I’m one of the last people to raise my hand when flight attendants ask for medical personnel to assist. However, I’ve been on two flights where I was the only medical provider.  After being involved in two in-flight medical emergencies within the same year, I decided to investigate this topic further.  Surprisingly, there is no medical provider on 10-25 % of all flights.  It is estimated that 44,000 in-flight medical emergencies occur yearly with 7.3% of them requiring diversion of the flight.  It’s quite a foreign feeling to be assessing and treating a patient in a nontraditional setting without your everyday equipment readily available.  So, in the unlikely event this happens to you, here is a list of the minimum medical equipment requirements for commercial flights carrying at least 20-30 passengers with at least 1 flight attendant on board per FAA guidelines:

  • Sphygmomanometer (1)
  • Stethoscope (1)
  • Airways, oropharyngeal (3 sizes): 1 pediatric, 1 small adult, 1 large adult or equivalent
  • Self-inflating manual resuscitation device with 3 masks (1 pediatric, 1 small adult, 1 large adult or equivalent)
  • CPR masks (3 sizes), 1 pediatric, 1 small adult, 1 large adult, or equivalent
  • IV Admin Set: Tubing w/ 2 Y connectors
  • Alcohol sponges (2)
  • Adhesive tape, 1-inch standard roll adhesive (1)
  • Tape scissors (1)
  • Tourniquet (1)
  • Saline solution, 500 cc (1)
  • Protective nonpermeable gloves or equivalent (1 pair)
  • Needles: 18 gauge (2), 20 gauge (2), 22 gauge (2), or sizes necessary to administer required medications
  • Syringes: 5 cc (1), 10 cc (2), or sizes necessary to administer required medications (4 total)
  • Analgesic, non-narcotic, tablets, 325 mg (4)
  • Antihistamine tablets, 25 mg (4)
  • Antihistamine injectable, 50 mg, (single dose ampule or equivalent) (2)
  • Atropine, 0.5 mg, 5 cc (single dose ampule or equivalent) (2)
  • Aspirin tablets, 325 mg (4)
  • Bronchodilator, inhaled (metered dose inhaler or equivalent) (1)
  • Dextrose, 50%/50 cc injectable, (single dose ampule or equivalent) (1)
  • Epinephrine 1:1000, 1 cc, injectable, (single dose ampule or equivalent) (2)
  • Epinephrine 1:10,000, 2 cc, injectable, (single dose ampule or equivalent) (2)
  • Lidocaine, 5 cc, 20 mg/ml, injectable (single dose ampule or equivalent) (2)
  • Nitroglycerine tablets, 0.4 mg (10)
  • Basic instructions for use of the drugs in the kit 1
  • AED

The Aviation Medical Assistance Act by Congress specifically protects state-qualified medical personnel who respond to in-flight emergencies.  It states, “An individual shall not be liable for damages in any action brought in a Federal or State court arising out of the acts or omissions of the individual in providing or attempting to provide assistance in the case of an in-flight medical emergency unless the individual, while rendering such assistance, is guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct.”  As always, a Physician Assistant should never act outside of their scope of practice and should always use their best clinical judgement when responding so such emergencies.

*The list above was obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Advisory circular from 1/12/2006 which appears to be the most updated version available presently.

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I'm a Physician Assistant in Critical Care, vlogger, and travel addict providing you an inside look at 'Life as a PA'!

One comment

  1. This is really cool information! I recently flew across the country, and I was wondering what kinds of medical situations the airlines prepare for. Thankfully there were no emergencies on my flight, but it is good to know what I would have available, should the situation arrise!

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