Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Fortnightly Review: Managing in flight emergencies

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 05 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:374
  1. W Angu Wallace, professora
  1. aUniversity Department of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery, University Hospital NHS Trust, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH

    Earlier this year the dramatic story of a makeshift operation aboard an aircraft flying from Hong Kong to London hit Britain's newspapers. Here the surgeon who performed the in flight operation gives an account of what happened, and he and the other doctors who treated the patient assess the problems of managing medical emergencies in the air.

    A personal account

    I was on board a Boeing 747 bound from Hong Kong to London and was seating myself before departure when a call was made by the stewardess: “If there is a doctor on board would they please make themselves known to the cabin staff.” I offered assistance. A 39 year old woman in the back row of economy class had become concerned about the swelling developing in her forearm which another doctor, Dr Tom Wong, was examining as I joined him. She told us that she had fallen off a motorcycle on the way to the airport. She had been shaken by the accident and had missed her original flight before catching this one. The problem appeared to be bruising and a probable minimally displaced fracture of the right forearm. She did not complain of any other injuries, and though I had attended an advanced trauma and life support course in 1990, I did not carry out a full primary survey—there seemed to be no need, and it might have been …

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