Flying with instability of the cervical spine

Few non-sufferers know how severe the limitations are that are the result from instability of the cervical spine. If the connection between the head and the spine is exceptionally mobile, for example due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – an inherited condition that affects the body’s connective tissues – this can compress the spinal cord, or various nerves or blood vessels, or exert pressure on the brain stem. It can lead to head and neck pain, dizziness, speech or vision disorders and memory problems. Young adults are often affected, and their quality of life is significantly reduced as a result. Since diagnosing cervical spine instability is not always easy, the patient often feels helpless and frustrated, because the doctors are in the dark.

Patients with cervical spine instability also face health risks when flying. Even in comparatively mild cases, the forces acting on the cervical spine during take-off and landing can lead to new symptoms or aggravate existing problems. This is why many sufferers wear a neck brace on scheduled flights, to support their head and neck. In addition, there are many other stresses associated with the flight. Long periods spent standing, queueing or walking at the airport, plus crowds and heavy luggage, can make air travel an extremely unpleasant experience. Often, the airport's special assistance service can at least provide some relief here and, for example, take the passenger to the aircraft in a wheelchair.

If a scheduled flight is impossible

In severe cases, a scheduled flight can be completely ruled out by a diagnosis of 'instability of the cervical spine’. For example, pressure on the brain stem can make even minor external stimuli such as noise or bright light quite unbearable. Dizzy spells and pain can also be so severe that a scheduled flight is impossible. In such difficult cases, non-urgent travel should not be considered. However, treatment of the condition – for example, by stabilising the cervical spine through surgery – may only be carried out by a few specialists who are hard to reach without flying.

For example, many European patients choose surgical treatment in Barcelona. There, an operation can be performed to fuse together the first and second neck vertebrae. This makes the cervical spine less mobile and, if the operation goes well, leads to a significant improvement in the symptoms.

Transport in an ambulance jet

In these cases, the solution may be to transport patients in an ambulance jet. On such flights, everything is designed to protect the patient’s head and spine and to enable him or her to be transported in a medically safe manner. An experienced flight doctor takes responsibility for the patient on board, and, together with a nurse, looks after the patient's wellbeing. On request, a relative can accompany the flight, and there are no other passengers. This means that the patient is not unnecessarily burdened and is spared the inconveniences associated with a regular scheduled flight.

Everything is also taken care of from a medical point of view. The equipment on board offers conditions similar to those in a modern intensive care unit and, in advance of the flight, is specifically adapted for transporting the sick passenger. As the medical crew takes care of only one patient during the entire flight, they are immediately on hand if intervention is necessary.

Another advantage that ambulance flights offer is their tremendous flexibility. They can be made ready for take-off at exactly the required time – even at very short notice if the situation calls for it. In addition, ambulance jets are not tied to the major international airports and can instead take off and land at smaller airports. This allows our jets to pick up the patient close to where they are staying, and to minimise the stress and potential discomfort of ground transport.

What does an ambulance flight cost?

Only a few insurance companies will take over the cost of an ambulance flight abroad. Nevertheless, it is always worth contacting your own health insurance company and discussing the chances of them covering the entire cost, or at least a portion of it.

Particularly if the ambulance flight has to be paid for by the patient, they and their relatives usually want to know exactly what costs they can expect. As these costs have to be calculated individually, at this stage we can only explain the factors that are included in our calculation:

  • The distance to be travelled affects the fuel and staffing costs, but also, in some cases, the costs associated with landing and overflight permits. This makes it one of the most important influencing factors.
  • The patient's precise state of health influences what medical measures are required during the ambulance flight. These measures also affect the price of the flight.
  • If more than one accompanying person needs to be accommodated on board the ambulance aircraft, the use of a larger aircraft is usually necessary. This is normally more expensive than smaller models.
  • The availability of suitable aircraft on the desired date of departure also influences the price. The greater the lead time and the more flexible the flight time, the more economical the flight normally turns out to be.

If you would like a reliable guide price for your particular case, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to discuss your situation and calculate the costs for you without obligation.

Reasons for choosing the Medical Air Service

You can rely on our many years of experience. We have already brought many patients with instability of the cervical spine safely to their destinations, enabling them to receive medical treatment from the best specialists. Due to our international network, we can offer you an ambulance flight on any flight route. Thanks to our multilingual team, smooth and clear coordination with the receiving hospital abroad is the norm.

Our ‘bed to bed’ service is designed to keep stress for our passengers to a minimum. We will pick up the patient from the location where they are staying and take them to the airport – bringing them directly to the waiting ambulance aircraft. A ground ambulance will also be waiting at the flight destination and will take the patient to the receiving hospital. Naturally, we always coordinate all the patient pick-up and handover times, thereby avoiding unnecessary delays.

Contact us

Our team is available 24/7 for a free consultation. We would be delighted to give you a no-obligation quotation for your trip. Please contact us:

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