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In-Flight Emergency Care Intrigues Radiologist

March 4, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Emergency Radiology
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Raymond Bertino, MD, a radiologist based in Peoria, Illinois, takes a very personal interest in midflight medical emergencies aboard airplanes. He has experienced them from the perspective of both doctor and patient.

Three times, he has responded to the intercom question “Is there a physician aboard?” by volunteering to help a fellow airline passenger in medical distress.

Once, he himself was the passenger in need of assistance. An anesthesiologist stepped forward when Dr. Bertino felt stricken over the Mediterranean Sea during a flight to Greece for a family vacation in 2007.

Fortunately, it turned out that none of the incidents involved a serious medical problem. But, Dr. Bertino said, they inspired him to start thinking about such situations:

I tend to get interested in things that are clearly not running well.

He was quoted in an article last month in the Peoria Journal Star.

Dr. Bertino said his experiences have taught him that medical professionals who volunteer to help airline passengers feel uncomfortable. They’re not sure about the parameters that govern them, nor about what medical equipment is available or where it might be.

When an anesthesiologist aided him during his own emergency, Dr. Bertino said, the man seemed just as tentative as Dr. Bertino had been when the radiologist himself had been the volunteer—even though anesthesiologists have far more experience dealing with medical emergencies than radiologists. “I was glad he was there,” Dr. Bertino said, “but it was clear he felt helpless.”

So Dr. Bertino is surveying doctors in his area regarding how much they know about such situations. He works for Central Illinois Radiological Associates, which has 15 hospital locations, and practices at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

He has been corresponding with Melissa Mattison, MD, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was lead author of a 2011 JAMA article titled, “Navigating the Challenges of In-flight Emergencies.” They have been working with health-care and airline-industry organizations to, they hope, improve the handling of midair medical care.

He and Dr. Mattison, Dr. Bertino said, have “more or less claimed ourselves as representing the hundreds of doctors who raise their hands every day and say, ‘I’ll help.'”

Related CME seminar (up to 20 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): Emergency Radiology (all-new release)

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