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Prina LD, Orzai UN, Weber RE. "Evaluation of emergency air evacuation of critically ill patients from cruise ships, Journal of Travel Medicine, 2001 8:6 (Nov-Dec), 285-92

The study objectives were to assess the ship physician's diagnostic accuracy in making the decision to air evacuate critically ill patients from cruise ships, to determine the outcome of these patients, and the overall benefit of air evacuation. From October 1999 to May 2000, we performed a prospective study of critically ill patients coming from cruise ships in the Caribbean and transported to our institution by air ambulance. Demographics, initial diagnosis, and treatment on board were collected by the triage officer at the time of the cruise physician's first call. In route complications and flight team composition were obtained from the air ambulance monitoring log. Patients were followed-up in the hospital for complications, outcome, and final diagnosis.RESULTS: A consecutive series of 104 patients were considered for analysis. There were 65 men and 39 women (mean age: 68.7 years). Cruise physician's diagnosis was correct in more than 90% of the cases. Internal medicine and surgical conditions represented 80.8% and 19.2% of the cases respectively, falling mainly into three categories: cardiac (34.6%), neurological (20.2%), and digestive (14%). Two cardiac arrests and 1 ventricular fibrillation were successfully resuscitated and 5 of 15 myocardial infarctions received thrombolytic therapy on board. Air transfers were warranted in 96.1% of the cases and physician presence in the flight was considered appropriate in 97.6%. In route complications and mortality rate were 5.8% and 2.9% respectively, related to serious cardiac events. Among the 98 hospitalized patients, 10 patients developed new complications and 5 died. The overall mortality rate was 7.7%. The cruise industry appears off to a good start in the medical treatment of passengers needing air evacuation to a land based medical facility. There is room for improvement and adoption of American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) Health Care Guidelines are meaningful first steps. Analysis of Caribbean medical facilities and implementation of active telemedicine conferencing represent alternatives to air evacuation that need to be studied.