bmi, one of the UK`s major airlines, made aviation history when one of its passengers became the first commercial airline passenger ever to have an electrocardiogram (ECG or heart trace) recorded in flight and transmitted by satellite to physicians on the ground in the States.Ê
Whilst on a bmi flight from Chicago to Manchester, Mr Stephen Clarke, 50 of Congleton, Cheshire, benefited from the Tempus 2000 equipment, just ten months after it was installed on bmi transatlantic flights.Ê The ECG was of such good quality that physicians manning the MedLink service in Phoenix, Arizona were able to make an immediate diagnosis of heart attack.Ê Under their supervision, chief stewardess, Karen Cornelius, and stewardesses Sally Cast and Ellen Davies administered emergency treatment and after a short stay in the Coronary Care Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital, Mr Clarke is now recovering at home.
Tempus 2000, developed by Remote Diagnostic Technologies Ltd (RDT), has enabled bmi crew to obtain clinically accurate vital signs on any passenger taken ill on a flight. The results are then transmitted instantaneously, to emergency medicine specialists manning the MedLink services of MedAire inc. in America.
Tempus 2000 is the first remote medical monitoring device designed specifically for non-expert use during a medical incident on board an aircraft. Using an inbuilt modem the device monitors a passenger`s blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature, electrocardiogram (ECG), blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. This data is then sent, via the inflight phone system, to specialist physicians in the accident and emergency department of the central teaching hospital in Phoenix, Arizona who then advise the crew of the best course of action.
Mr Clarke commented:
“I was very anxious at the time but I was amazed at how quickly the stewardesses reacted and how quickly the equipment was set up and information communicated.Ê The doctors responded immediately and the stewardesses gave me the treatment that they advised from the doctor`s box on the aircraft.Ê The whole thing was so confidence-inspiring that I immediately felt much less anxious”.Ê Ê
Said Dr Robert Scott, physician, MedLink:
“The 12-lead ECG tracing we received was virtually the same quality as I see in the emergency room. We take a lot of inflight calls every day that include symptoms of chest pain, but very few are actually heart attacks. In this situation the patient did not have a history of heart problems, which would lead us to treat him on a conservative basis. However, with the ECG confirming his condition and the exceptional assistance from the chief stewardess, we were able to treat much more aggressively and immediately utilised all of the appropriate onboard medical resources in support of the passenger.”
Dr Graham Cresswell, chief medical officer, bmi said:
“We`ve used Tempus many times since we installed it in May last year but this is first time that an ECG has needed to be transmitted from a commercial airliner in flight.Ê I`m delighted that this, the most demanding of the techniques involved, was so effective and that our considerable investment in this cutting-edge equipment has been justified.Ê Passenger health is more and more on the agenda these days and we`re very proud that bmi is the first airline, and still the only airline in the world, to have this type of equipment installed.Ê It is particularly gratifying to observe the teamwork exhibited by Remote Diagnostic Technologies Ltd, Inmarsat, MedLink in Phoenix and, of course, our own cabin crew and their trainers.Ê All of these people and organisations have worked hard to help develop this tool to the point at which this remarkable achievement has become routine.”ÊÊ
Dr Simon Ray, Cardiologist, Withenshaw Hospital:
Ê“We were all very impressed. The doctors in Phoenix had a good quality ECG that allowed them to act confidently and decisively and they got the cabin crew to do all the right things. This seems to me to be a very significant advance. It should be much more widely available.”