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Anaemia and flying

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Anaemia and flying

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Anaemia is caused by low levels of healthy red blood cells, and of the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin, in the blood. Anaemia is always associated with oxygen deficiency throughout the entire body due to the decreased capacity of the blood to transport oxygen.

Flying with anaemia

The human body compensates for the oxygen deficit through accelerated breathing and a faster heartbeat to ensure a normal oxygen supply to the whole organism and to maintain all vital bodily functions. This enables faster pumping of the blood through the circulatory system and better oxygenation of the body's organs and tissues.

However, the increased heart rate soon leads to the body’s physical stress limit being exceeded.

Typical symptoms of anaemia include mild fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, lower physical and mental performance, tinnitus, nausea, dizziness, feeling faint, loss of consciousness, insomnia, problems with concentration and vision, angina pectoris, muscle weakness and increased susceptibility to infections.

In the long term, these symptoms can lead to increased risk of mortality, especially through cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

Why can flying with anaemia be a problem?

Flying can cause significant medical problems for anaemia patients  and can even be life-threatening. For people with anaemia, severe oxygen deficiency can occur at high altitudes due to the thinner atmosphere. As a result, during a flight in an aircraft the symptoms of anaemia may worsen, leading to respiratory or circulatory collapse or even cardiac arrest.

At the flying altitudes of commercial aircraft, which are between 10,000 and 12,000 metres, the air pressure and the oxygen content of the blood are only a quarter of the values present at sea level. In modern scheduled airliners, passengers are protected from these hostile conditions by pressurised cabins. However, the air pressure on board does not correspond to the air pressure at sea level but to an altitude of 2,000 to 2,500 metres.

The oxygen content of the air in the cabin is 21% – the same as at sea level. However, due to the lower air pressure on board, the body cannot absorb as much oxygen as at sea level, so the blood oxygen level is lower at these altitudes. Here, the oxygen saturation of the red blood cells drops  from about 98% to about 92% in healthy people and can drop to around 75% in anaemia patients.

Flying with anaemia is possible – in an ambulance aircraft

Cessna Citation 525b

But this does not mean that anaemia patients cannot use a medical flight service. Under certain medical conditions, patient transport by plane is possible at any time for people with anaemia.

Such flights can take place when the best possible patient care and safety is ensured on board by a highly qualified medical team. Through the administration of supplemental oxygen as part of intensive medical care during the flight, the anaemia patient’s oxygen deficiency can be adequately compensated.

Medical Repatriation UK carries out  medical repatriations for intensive care patients using ambulance aircraft – and ensures that during the flight anaemic persons receive excellent medical care in safe conditions. An ambulance flight is the optimum solution for the transport of patients with anaemia.

Our air ambulances provide the exact medical conditions necessary for the quick and safe repatriation of people with anaemia.

All the ambulance aircraft here at Medical Repatriation UK are equipped with state-of-the-art intensive care medical equipment and medications, precisely tailored to the current state of health of a particular anaemia patient. This includes medical oxygen, optional additional tanks and intensive care ventilators. In addition, during the flight, patients with anaemia are under the constant supervision of highly specialised medical flight attendants and are transported lying down.

Flying with anaemia – sea level flight

On short-haul routes, a medically accompanied flight in an ambulance aircraft is not a life-threatening experience for patients with anaemia. On medium and long-haul routes, however, ambulance flights for anaemic persons can be a serious health risk due to the marked difference in air pressure.

That's why we can also carry out a medical repatriation in an ambulance aircraft as a 'sea-level flight', if a doctor decides on an individual basis that it is necessary for reasons of medical urgency.  A sea level flight is an ambulance flight with a special pressurised cabin that can artificially maintain cabin air pressure at sea level.

Regardless of the actual altitude of the ambulance aircraft, the cabin pressure for sea level flights always remains between 600 and 900 metres above sea level – and is therefore safe for anaemia patients.

Flying with anaemia: will the insurance company cover the costs?

A travel insurance policy that includes medical insurance will not always cover the costs for an ambulance flight for an anaemia patient. Most international health and travel insurance policies include special insurance clauses that clearly determine the acceptance of costs from a legal point of view.

Whether the insurance company takes over the costs depends on whether the patient's flight is medically necessary or medically reasonable.

If the patient transfer is medically necessary, the insurance company will most likely cover the costs. This is the case, for example, if an important life-preserving operation cannot be performed directly on site in a foreign country, but only in the patient's country of residence and a doctor therefore orders the medical repatriation of the patient.

If the patient transfer is merely medically reasonable, the insurance company can refuse to cover the costs. This is the case even if the patient can be treated in the hospital abroad, but hospital treatment in the patient's country of residence promises a better outcome.

Cost make-up of an ambulance flight

Just as each ambulance flight is different, the cost of each ambulance flight will also vary. These costs are not fixed or standardised but differ depending on the individual case. The cost differences are caused by a large number of situation-dependent cost factors, which are weighted differently when calculating the total costs. Therefore, depending on your medical information, we can only provide you with a non-binding estimate of the costs during our initial conversation.

The cost factors include, for example, the distance to be travelled, the patient's state of health, the need for additional medications and equipment, the number of accompanying persons, the urgency of the enquiry and the means of transport chosen.

Anaemia patients flying with Medical Repatriation UK

Even though we are the ones saying that there are many good reasons to fly with Medical Repatriation UK, our success is linked to several key factors such as worldwide operational readiness, 24-hour availability of our experienced customer advisers, a global network of different aircraft and other means of transport as well as highly qualified multilingual teams.

This extensive international presence enables us to achieve the greatest possible mobility and flexibility. This in turn allows us to provide a tailor-made service geared towards the individual requirements and personal needs of our customers.

Our company philosophy: an all-inclusive package is the best solution for the transport of patients – it brings peace of mind for the patient’s family and friends and thus represents true added value. We take care of organising the entire medical repatriation mission and thus provide a great sense of relief for relatives and friends who are spared unnecessary stress and effort.

Thanks to the way we pool all the required skills, resources and processes, all the necessary steps for a medical repatriation can not only be effectively organised, coordinated and controlled, but can also be implemented quickly, smoothly and successfully.

Our many years of experience and extensive expertise in the field of  medical aviation are further advantages that ensure a high level of professionalism and quality in patient transport and patient safety. We also focus on excellent customer service.

Contact us now for your ambulance flight

Our 24-hour service is available to provide you with a free consultation or a non-binding estimate for your medical transport at any time – even for anaemia patients. Please do not hesitate to contact our experienced international team today: