Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar’s (WCM-Q) held a lecture about aviation medicine for its healthcare practitioners with Group Medical Director for Qatar Airways Dr Arthur John Roberts as the guest speaker.

The lecture, titled Aviation Medicine – What All Healthcare Practitioners Need to Know, focused on the topics including the physiological challenges posed by the aviation environment. Roberts summarised the information needed by airline medical departments to decide Fitness to Fly issues.

According to Roberts, aircraft cabins are pressurised to provide sufficient oxygen to allow human to survive at altitudes of 35,000 feet and above but the air that passengers breathe has less oxygen than the air at sea level. Roberts adds that the air onboard has about the same amount of oxygen as is found in the air on the ground at around 8,000 feet. This causes oxygen saturation in the blood to drop, explains Roberts.

Despite all the engineering controls in place, the cabin environment is still not the same as being at sea level. While it’s perfectly safe for the vast majority of people to fly, there may be some people who, although they are fit to be discharged from a hospital or clinic, they may not be well enough to fly completely risk-free.’

Roberts also discussed health conditions that can be negatively affected by flying, which include mental health issues, cardiac and respiratory illness, recent surgeries, pregnancy, infectious diseases, orthopaedic injuries and diabetes. Roberts referred the audience to guidance provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regarding these health issues and flying.

Roberts also highlighted the importance of medical information forms, which physicians can use to provide comprehensive health information about patients to help the airline determine if they are fit to fly.

The lecture was accredited locally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (ACCME).