A report in the journal Neurology recommends that anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) should be included in airline emergency medical kits.
Researchers from the Department of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, studied over 2,000 medical incidents over 5 years with a major US airline. 312 of these incidents resulted in the aircraft being diverted, with 34 per cent of these diversions being due to neurological reasons, the main symptoms being dizziness, vertigo and seizures. The report's authors have calculated that these neurologically-related diversions cost the US airline industry around $9 million each year.
The report concludes:
"Neurologic symptoms are the most common medical complaint requiring air-to-ground medical support and are second only to cardiovascular problems for emergency diversions and their resultant costs to the US airline industry.
"Adding antiepileptic drugs to the onboard medical kit and greater emergency medical training for in-flight personnel could potentially reduce the number of diversions for in-flight neurologic incidents."
Commenting on the report, Epilepsy Action's medical advisor, Dr Tim Betts from the Birmingham University Seizure Clinic, said:
"It doesn't seem that epilepsy itself is much of a problem, it is people who have lost consciousness for other reasons or fainted. If someone has an uncomplicated epileptic seizure on the plane and someone with them knows what to do and is carrying appropriate medication there is no need to divert the plane.
"I would be worried about people who are not well trained using medication such as rectal valium."