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Flying with a brain tumour

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Flying with a brain tumour

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A Brain tumour is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain or in the meninges and cranial nerves. Due to their location in the brain or spinal cord, brain tumours are cancers of the central nervous system and can occur in different places and in different forms. A distinction is made between benign and malignant brain tumours. One third of all tumours are malignant, two thirds are benign.

Brain tumours are very rare and account for only 2% of all cancers. More men are affected than women. In both men and women, brain tumours are most likely to occur in childhood or between the ages of 70 and 75.

Brain tumour

Brain tumours often occur unexpectedly. The triggers for the condition are largely unknown. Currently, only a few causes are considered to be known risk factors. They include genetic diseases such as neurofibromatosis and certain treatments such as radiotherapy.

In contrast to other tumour diseases, both malignant and benign brain tumours can be life-threatening. With benign brain tumours, symptoms arise from the growing pressure on the surrounding brain tissue, and with malignant brain tumours they are caused by the destruction of surrounding healthy brain tissue.

Brain tumours can be particularly dangerous because of  their location. Due to the well protected position within the brain or spinal cord and the limited space in the cranial cavity, a growing tumour and the surrounding brain tissue have very little room for manoeuvre. The swelling exerts pressure on the cells and nerves of the brain and impairs their ability to function or damages them.

Depending on their location, even small tumours can cause serious damage and symptoms of brain failure and can seriously affect life expectancy and quality.

The symptoms of a brain tumour are very varied. They include headaches, nausea, coma, vomiting, drowsiness, paralysis, dizziness, hearing loss, speech and vision disorders, apathy, anxiety, concentration disorders, depression, forgetfulness, disorientation, epileptic seizures and problems with coordination.

Why can flying with a brain tumour be problematic?

Flying can cause serious medical complications for brain tumour patients. At higher altitudes, the symptoms of a brain tumour can worsen due to the pressure difference and can even become life-threatening.

Modern commercial aircraft are equipped with pressurised cabins that artificially create a higher air pressure than in the atmosphere. However, the cabin air pressure does not correspond to that at sea level, but rather to an altitude of 2,000 to 2,500 metres. Due to the lower air pressure on board, gas, such as oxygen, trapped in the cells of the body, can expand by up to 35%, causing the brain tumour and cerebral fluid to expand. This leads to increased intracranial pressure.

But fresh surgical wounds can also limit a brain tumour patient’s fitness to fly. During an operation, air can be trapped in the cranial cavity. The air then expands during the flight. Therefore, for patients who have just had an operation, a waiting period of at least six months is recommended before taking a flight.

Flying with a brain tumour is possible – in an ambulance aircraft

But brain tumour patients need not worry. This does not mean that they will also have to forego the many advantages of medical aviation.

Because under certain medical conditions transport by plane is certainly possible for patients with brain tumours. These complex medical requirements can be met in our ambulance aircraft. Here, state-of-the-art modern medical intensive care equipment and a highly qualified medical team enable intensive medical treatment of the patient and ensure excellent patient care and safety.

Bombardier Challenger 605

Medical Repatriation UK organises patient transport for intensive care patients using ambulance aircraft – and thus enables brain tumour patients to receive excellent medical care in safe conditions.

Our ambulances are equipped with state-of-the-art intensive care equipment and medications that are precisely tailored to the current state of health of the individual  brain tumour patient. In addition, tumour patients are transported lying down on a stretcher bed and are under the constant supervision of highly specialised medical flight attendants.

‘Sea-level flights’ for brain tumour patients

A ‘normal’ flight can be life-threatening for brain tumour patients due to the large difference in air pressure. If our flight doctors consider it necessary, we can carry out a medical repatriation in an ambulance aircraft as a ‘sea level flight’.

The patient is transported in an air ambulance in a special pressurised cabin, which artificially maintains the cabin pressure at a level equivalent to between 600 and 900 metres above sea level. This avoids the problems caused by the air pressure difference and allows safe transport.

Flying with a brain tumour – are the costs covered by your insurance?

Contrary to widespread belief, the costs of an ambulance flight may not be covered in all cases by your health insurance or travel insurance policy.

Most international travel insurance companies define their own rules for the acceptance of costs and state these clearly from a legal point of view in special insurance clauses within their insurance policies.

The important legal difference is the distinction between medically reasonable and medically necessary patient transport. An insurance company is only legally obliged to cover the costs if the patient’s flight is medically necessary. 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.

However, an insurance company can refuse to cover the costs if it is merely a medically reasonable patient transport. This is the case, for example, if the patient can be treated directly on site in a foreign country, but hospital treatment in the patient’s home country promises a better outcome.

Cost calculation for an ambulance flight

An ambulance flight is a special case in terms of cost calculation. Unlike most medical services, where costs are fixed and can be calculated in advance, the costs of an ambulance flight are not fixed costs but variable costs.

The reason for this is clear: When organising ambulance flights, a variety of different, situation-dependent cost factors must be taken into account, all of which are incorporated into the final cost calculation.

These cost factors can vary, depending on the individual case, so it is almost impossible to calculate the exact costs for ambulance flights in advance. The factors include, for example, the number of accompanying persons, the patient's state of health, the distance to be travelled, the urgency of the enquiry, the means of transport chosen and the need for additional medications or equipment.

We will be happy to calculate the cost of your ambulance flight for you during a no-obligation telephone consultation.

Flying with a brain tumour with Medical Repatriation UK

We are convinced that in a service-oriented field like medical flight services, it is only possible to stand out from the competition if you offer patients the best possible customer service.

And this is only possible if you have the highest levels of mobility, flexibility, professionalism, expertise and experience required to gain the competitive advantage – just as is the case with Medical Repatriation UK.

The many attractive features of our medical repatriation service form the basis for our success story. These include a global network of different means of transport, worldwide readiness for deployment, highly qualified, multilingual teams and the 24-hour availability of our team of experienced advisers.

Due to this competitive advantage, we can offer a bespoke service tailored to the personal needs and individual requirements of our customers.

As a professional service provider in medical aviation, we bring together all the required resources, competences and processes – which not only enables us to organise, coordinate and control all these elements effectively, but also to carry out all the necessary steps for a medical repatriation quickly, smoothly and successfully.

Since we take care of all the organisational effort for the patient transport and thus relieve the relatives and friends of the patient of this burden, our comprehensive service is a significant benefit for our customers and thus represents real added value.

Contact us now for your ambulance flight

Are you considering a medically accompanied flight for a loved one with a brain tumour? Our 24-hour service is available at any time for a free consultation or a non-binding quotation for your ambulance flight. Please do not hesitate to contact our experienced international team today.