As you travel there is an occasional call for medical assistance overhead. This is a surprisingly rare event given the number of people that take airplane flights. There are 2.75 billion passengers globally each year. A study done at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010 evaluated the outcomes on commercial flights from 2008 to 2010. They found that 1 out of 604 (0.17%) flights had a medical emergency. Of these emergencies, almost a quarter (23%) occurred on the ground. In-flight emergencies rarely caused an early landing (7%).
“The most common reasons to divert the aircraft were for emergencies related to heart issues, gynecological or obstetrical problems, possible stroke and seizures.”
The most common reasons to divert the aircraft were for emergencies related to heart issues, gynecological or obstetrical problems, possible stroke and seizures. Passing out or nearly passing out was the most common cause to call for emergency medical help. A quarter of the patients were taken to the hospital and less than 10% were admitted. Fortunately death occurred only 0.3% of the time.
Although medical emergencies do happen, airlines have procedures and emergency equipment available to deal with these rare occurrences.