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20-07-2010 | General practice | Article

Most heart patients safe to fly


Fitness to fly for passengers with cardiovascular disease

Most people with cardiovascular conditions are safe to fly on commercial aircraft, new guidance from the British Cardiovascular Society reassures doctors and patients.

Only if a patient's condition is at risk of deteriorating during the flight do they need to take specific precautions or delay flying, explain Dr David Smith (Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust) and co-authors of the document.

Speaking to MedWire News, Dr Smith said: "It's really the stability of people's conditions that count and we hope that we have clearly outlined how you can separate the high-risk from the low-risk people."

For example, post-myocardial infarction patients considered low risk can fly after 3 days and those at medium risk after 10 days, but patients considered high risk need to defer travel indefinitely until planned investigations or treatments are completed and their condition is stable.

Of note, the guidance also confirms that people with pacemakers and those with cyanotic congenital heart disease can fly safely if they take the appropriate precautions.

Due to be published in the journal Heart, the guidance includes a two-page summary listing precautions and recommended delays for each condition at the front of the document.

Dr Smith said: "We're imagining that GPs will have the guidance at-a-glance on their desk or in a drawer, so that when someone asks 'Can I fly?' they will be able to have a look at it."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price