Risks when flying in an ambulance aircraft

First things first: an ambulance flight is an extremely safe method of transporting patients. The modern medical equipment in an ambulance jet, which is similar to that of an intensive care unit in a hospital, enables excellent care to be given. In addition, during the flight, individual care is almost always provided by a specialised flight doctor, assisted by a paramedic or nurse.

In this way, even seriously ill patients can be transported in the greatest possible safety. In advance of the ambulance flight, the patient’s fitness to travel is meticulously checked so that patients for whom an ambulance flight would obviously be dangerous are not transported at all.

Nevertheless, an ambulance flight is associated with certain risks. We would like to give you as much information as possible about these uncertainties.

Misleading medical documentation

Some hospitals are happy to unburden themselves of patients whose treatment and care are too challenging. In some cases, the treating doctors may gloss over some of the details when filling in the medical documents or omit relevant information. Sometimes the medical staff are simply sympathetic to the relatives' desire for the transfer of the patient and therefore describe his or her state of health as being better than it actually is.

However, the medical documentation is the basis on which our doctors judge the patient's fitness to fly. Misleading medical documentation can result in a patient transfer being arranged that is not justifiable in terms of the patient’s health.

Of course, our team of doctors will examine the patient in person at the hospital before the transfer takes place. In many cases, the doctors conclude that the patient is not fit to travel and the patient transfer is aborted. This is still the best-case scenario for the patient, because travelling will only result in considerable costs. However, sometimes the difference between the medical documentation and the reality is not detectable during a physical examination. In such cases the likelihood of serious complications during the flight significantly increases.

Sudden changes in the patient’s state of health

Even if the medical documentation is complete and correct, it is still only a snapshot of the patient’s health status. Ideally, the ambulance flight would take place on the same day or the following day, so that the information would still be up to date. Even so, the patient's state of health may suddenly deteriorate, so that the medical documentation no longer corresponds to the facts.

Even in this situation, the deterioration of the patient's condition is usually noticeable before the patient’s flight takes off. But if the change is serious but not obvious, problems can occur during the flight.

Lack of cooperation from the patient

Patients have to decide for themselves whether or not they feel comfortable with being transported in an ambulance aircraft. If the patient is unable to decide for themselves, their carer will make that decision for them. Our patients are usually pleased that they can be transferred, so that problems rarely arise at this point.

In individual cases, however, it may be that a fully competent patient changes his or her mind and tells our medical professionals that they do not wish to be transferred. In this case, we will respect their wishes and will abandon the patient transfer.

For patients whose carers make the decisions, a positive attitude on the part of the patient is also advantageous. If the patient is not cooperative during the various stages of the journey and does not allow our medical team to help them, the risk of complications during the ambulance flight increases.

Residual risk

Even if an ambulance flight has been prepared perfectly, and all participants are acting in harmony at all times, there is still a minimal residual risk. A transfer by air will always cause a certain amount of stress for the patient. Although we always do everything we can to minimise this stress, it can in some cases have a negative effect on the patient's health. Thanks to our highly experienced flight doctors and the appropriate medical equipment on board, we can usually intervene and stabilise the patient in such cases. However, we cannot completely rule out possible complications.

Contact us now

Our experienced team as Medical Air Service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can provide you with free information about the benefits and risks of an ambulance flight. On request, we will provide you with a non-binding offer for your individual case. Contact us now:

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