Stroke in Commercial Flights
Background and Purpose—Stroke on board aircraft has been reported in retrospective case series, mainly focusing on economy class stroke syndrome. Data on the actual incidence, pathogenesis, and prognosis of stroke in commercial flights are lacking.
Methods—A prospective registry was designed to include all consecutive patients referred from an international airport (40 million passengers a year) to our hospital with a diagnosis of ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack and onset of symptoms during a flight or immediately after landing.
Results—Forty-four patients (32 ischemic strokes and 12 transient ischemic attacks) were included over a 76-month period (January 2008 to April 2014). The estimated incidence of stroke was 1 stroke in 35 000 flights. Pathogeneses of stroke or transient ischemic attack were atherothrombotic in 16 (36%), economy class stroke syndrome in 8 (18%), cardioembolic in 7 (16%), arterial dissection in 4 (9%), lacunar stroke in 4 (9%), and undetermined in 5 (12%) patients. Carotid stenosis >70% was found in 12 (27%) of the patients. Overall prognosis was good, and thrombolysis was applied in 44% of the cases. The most common reason for not treating patients who had experienced stroke onset midflight was the delay in reaching the hospital. Only 1 patient with symptom onset during the flight prompted a flight diversion.
Conclusions—We found a low incidence of stroke in the setting of air travel. Economy class stroke syndrome and arterial dissection were well represented in our sample. However, the main pathogenesis was atherothrombosis with a high proportion of patients with high carotid stenosis.
- Received December 31, 2015.
- Revision received January 16, 2016.
- Accepted January 21, 2016.
- © 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.