Aviation, space, and environmental medicine

Managing acute coronary syndrome during medical air evacuation from a remote location at sea.

PMID 24479263


Coronary emergencies at sea requiring air evacuation are not uncommon. On board a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier while in a remote location, an active duty sailor suffered a myocardial infarction. A medical evacuation by helicopter was necessary. Transfer proved difficult due to the ship's location, poor flying conditions, and the patient's deteriorating condition. This case stresses the importance of expeditious diagnosis, treatment, and air transfer to shore-based facilities capable of providing definitive coronary care. A 33-yr-old man recently started on trazodone due to depression complained of chest pain. The patient was hemodynamically unstable and electrocardiogram showed ST segment elevation and Q waves in the anterior, inferior, and lateral leads. He was air-lifted to the nearest accepting facility with cardiac catheterization capabilities, which was over 300 miles away. Poor weather conditions hindered the pilot's ability to fly the original course. The patient remained critical and medication choices were limited. Even with all of these obstacles, everyone involved performed his or her duties admirably. The patient's condition improved by the time the helicopter landed. He was then rushed by ambulance to the hospital's coronary care unit, where he was successfully treated. This case highlights the need to keep a high index of suspicion when patients complain of chest pain, regardless of age. It is of the utmost importance that individuals capable of thinking and acting quickly are assigned to medical evacuation teams, and that they continue to train regularly, as coronary events at sea are not uncommon.