Seizures, strokes, and plane flights

This is your Captain speaking: "Go easy on the drugs and alcohol and enjoy your flight"
This is your Captain speaking: “Go easy on the drugs and alcohol and enjoy your flight”

 

Planes and an ailing brain….

A high ranking politician got off a longhaul plane flight and promptly had a seizure.
Made me wonder what we know about this type of presentation.
Certain types of illness – especially heart attacks and blood clots – have been linked to air travel aka economy class syndrome.
But there’s been less study of conditions affecting the brain and nervous system, such as stroke and seizures.
Madrid Barajas, a big hospital close to Madrid’s main airport, monitored all cases referred to its neurology department from the airport over several years, to see if they could spot patterns that might be linked to flight.

The most common reason to be referred to neurology was seizure, followed by stroke.

The majority of the people who had fits had not experienced a seizure before.
In most cases, the seizure was linked to having taken drugs or consumed alcohol during or before the flight. In three cases, people had fits because they were smuggling cocaine into the country and had swallowed packets of the drug, which had split.
For those people who were previously diagnosed with epilepsy, most said they had either missed a dose of medication, or had disrupted sleep, or had used recreational drugs.
There were a number of strokes, mostly among people who were already at high risk of stroke because of their high blood pressure. Only one stroke was thought to be linked directly to the flight.
What does this mean for the average air traveller?
Well fortunately, flying is unlikely to cause health problems if you are generally healthy.
Alcohol and drugs don’t mix well with air travel and were linked to many of the cases of seizures.
Fortunately there were no captains in the clinical cohort!
For people with epilepsy, the study showed that the disruption associated with travel can cause health problems if you forget to take medicine or if you fallout of your usual sleep routine. People with epilepsy who are planning a long-haul flight might want to get advice from their doctor in advance about how they can plan to avoid problems.
Travel well!
Check out the study published in JNNP:
Alonso-Cánovas A, de Felipe-Mimbrera A, González-Va
lcárcel J,et al
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry
2011;82:981–5.
http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/82/9/981.full

  • Solty

    Thank you for simple but pragmatic explanations. As you know, there is “traveler problem by airway” daily neurology practice. I will use this information.

  • Fabian Sophia

    Hello, my name is Sophia I have just been told I am having
    seizures; my kind of seizures is so different from all the others I have
    heard about. Three years ago I went to my doctor with dizziness,
    weakness, and unstable walking at times. I had an MRI done, they found
    nothing, so I was put on Prozac which I refused to take, after three
    years I went to another doctor who did an EEG right after one of those
    dizzy spells and found out that I was having seizures. He told me I had
    them at first on the left side of my front lob now it is on both sides.
    He started me out on Dilantin 300mg, but it was making me very sick, so
    now I’m starting on divalproex er 500mg. If anyone out there is having
    dizzy spells, make your doctor listen to you, have an EEG done within
    24hours, But after all procedure done. I was still an epileptic
    patient, who have completely lose hope. As the problem is always
    embarrassing and disturbing. While surfing the internet one fateful
    day, I saw woman’s comment about how medicine has complete cure her only
    son and prompted me into going through the testimony to know the detail
    and that was when I learned about Doctor Ethan.
    I contacted
    him with some info and he ordered a dispatch down to my country through
    delivery service, I took his medicine for couple of months, though
    hesitantly, considering the fact that I have done a lot of procedure.
    Over a year now, I have not show any symptoms of seizure and I believe I am cure if you want to contact him at this email doctor.ethan@yahoo.com