Is flying when in a coma possible? Air ambulances are available for comatose patients!

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As one of the most complex and misunderstood medical condition, coma was long thought to be irreversible. However, thanks to ongoing development and progress in this field, comatose patients are now given a chance of recovery.

To this end, they must sometimes be transported across continents to medical facilities with more modern and advanced resources. A medical plane outfitted with sophisticated medical devices is required for this transfer to be successful. As your trusted aeromedical transport services provider, we organize international medical flights quickly and safely. Please contact us if your loved one is in a coma. We are here to assist you.

Why would patients in a coma need to fly?

Before answering this question, let us first understand what a coma is and how it is caused.

A coma is a prolonged state of unconsciousness in which a person is unresponsive and cannot be awakened. It can be caused by a brain injury, such as a stroke or severe head trauma. It can also be caused by a brain infection (encephalitis), a brain tumor, or severe drug or alcohol poisoning. Other important causes of coma include acute high blood pressure or cerebral hypoxia.

coma patient

The patient requires emergency treatment as a result of these injuries and conditions. A specialized medical team may perform tests such as MRI, X-ray, CT scan, and CAT scan. The team is also in charge of maintaining vital functions, for example, through artificial breathing. Inadequate treatment can lead to a persistent vegetative state or death.

If the injury or medical condition that caused the coma occurs in a foreign country, air repatriation services may be required in order to allow the patient to benefit from proper and advanced treatments as well as full insurance coverage in their home country. It's also a way to reconnect with family and friends.

Why is flying commercially for patients in a coma not viable?

As a last resort, a comatose patient may be flown home on a commercial airliner. They will be transported on a commercial stretcher and may be accompanied by a medical escort. However, it should be noted that such a trip is fraught with danger and is neither recommended nor feasible.

To begin with, the patient is separated from the other passengers only by a curtain. As a result, complex treatments requiring privacy and space for doctors to move freely are not possible. Furthermore, since flying with bulky medical devices is not an option, this limits the scope of action of the medical escort in the event of a mid-flight medical emergency. Finally, the unfamiliar environment of the pressurized cabin may cause unexpected physiological changes that have a negative impact on the patient's health.

What are the risks of flying commercially after a coma?

Understanding how the body reacts in a pressurized cabin helps to understand the risks associated with flying after a coma.

Commercial air travel necessitates flying at a high altitude. Because the human body cannot withstand such high altitudes, airplanes are equipped with pressurized cabins to keep the body in a balanced atmospheric pressure. Hypobaric hypoxia is an adverse effect which can occur when the body is immersed in such low atmospheric pressure. This reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the tissues that support the brain and bodily fluids, which is especially concerning after a coma. Cerebral hypoxia in a comatose patient may worsen a brain injury, pre-existing respiratory conditions or heart failure.

ambulance jet

Cabin pressure influences the gas in body cavities as well. At cruising altitudes, this causes gas expansion within body cavities and medical devices. In some cases, this expansion can cause minor abdominal cramping and barotrauma to the ears in otherwise healthy passengers. Comatose patients who have recently undergone surgical procedures, on the other hand, are more likely to experience problems associated with this phenomenon, such as organ perforation and wound dehiscence, which is the cut where the surgery was made re-opening.

Another serious risk of flying is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), when, due to prolonged periods of cramped immobility, blood clots form in the deep veins of bed-bound patients. If a number of risk factors come together, such as a history of blood clots, pregnancy, or recent surgery, the clot can travel to the heart or lungs. The blocked artery that results can be fatal.

Last but not least, infections are a common complication of a coma, and the most common health risk of flying is contracting an illness from passengers. With the ongoing global threat of coronavirus, this is more important than ever, and is especially concerning for coma patients who may have a weakened immune system.

For all of these reasons, flying a coma patient on a commercial flight is not possible. Instead, a dedicated air ambulance is the best option. 

Air ambulances for coma patients

We can, in fact, organize safe long-distance medical transportations for coma patients in intensive care with the most critical pathologies using medical aircraft. Aeromedical professionals, such as doctors specializing in a variety of fields, including reanimation, will be constantly monitoring the patient on board and can provide immediate emergency intensive care if necessary. Our dedicated medical jets, of course, are outfitted with all of the advanced medical equipment and medications required to administer treatment, including:

  • A respirator if the patient is unable to breathe on his own.
  • Constant monitoring of the vital signs including blood pressure, breathing and pulse.

4 main benefits of our air ambulances for coma patients

We can adjust the cabin pressure in our medical aircraft to simulate ground conditions. These aircraft are also capable of flying at low altitudes (called sea level). As a result, there are no pressure changes during the journey. This is sometimes required for the transfer of coma patients due to their condition.

In addition to more flexible schedules, our smaller air ambulances can take off and land very close to the hospitals of departure and arrival, allowing for a particularly quick transfer and avoiding plane changes, which can be hazardous to the patient's health.

Furthermore, whether in terms of ICU-like equipment and medication, medical follow-up, or interior design, our medical aircraft have been designed to provide the patient with maximum comfort. 

patient in a coma in a ground ambulance

When we provide bed-to-bed service, a medical team goes to the discharging facility to meet the patient in their room,  and reassure t them about the transfer before accompanying them to the aircraft in a fully equipped ground ambulance. The same procedure is followed in the arrival country, with the medical team accompanying the patient to the receiving hospital, thus ensuring continuity of care throughout the transfer.

Contact us now if you need an air ambulance for a comatose patient!

Are you looking for a US air ambulance service to arrange long-distance patient transportation? Get in touch with our multilingual team so we can advise you on the best mode of transportation for your needs. Our helpful experts will respond as soon as possible to provide you with a free, non-binding quick estimate for your trip.


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