How COPD Patients Are Monitored During Medical Flights

Symptoms of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, include a productive cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, weakness, and wheezing. The condition of a COPD patient can quickly deteriorate, and because of this, close monitoring is essential.

If your loved one lives in a rural area where access to medical care is limited, then he or she may need the services of an air ambulance company so that treatment can be sought at a metropolitan hospital. Here are some ways your loved one with COPD will be monitored by the flight nurse during a medical transport flight. 

Visual Assessment

Patients who have COPD often struggle with breathing, and because of this, the oxygenation of the blood may be poor. When combined with fluctuating air pressure in the aircraft cabin, the patient may develop a blue hue on the fingernails or lips. Also known as cyanosis, blueness of the skin and nails is a medical emergency.

If the flight nurse notices cyanosis, he or she will administer oxygen. The patient's condition will be closely monitored while they receive oxygen therapy because the flow of oxygen may need to be adjusted quickly if the air pressure in the air ambulance changes. If the patient's condition remains unstable despite oxygen therapy, the flight nurse will radio to the medical personnel at the destination hospital for further treatment orders.

Vital Signs

The flight nurse will monitor the patient's vital signs frequently so that subtle changes can be recognized and addressed. Because COPD causes severe pulmonary problems, the respiratory rate may increase or decrease quickly.

Blood pressure can spike wildly as well. When the respiratory rate and blood pressure become erratic, the heart may beat irregularly. The flight nurse can detect an abnormal heartbeat by simply checking the pulse.

If the pulse is beating too fast, it means that the patient has tachycardia. If too slow, bradycardia is present. If these conditions are discovered, the nurse will contact the emergency room physician at the hospital for further instructions. If the heart is beating too fast, the nurse may administer a beta-blocking medication to slow and regulate the heart rate. 

If your loved one has COPD and needs to be transported to a hospital in another city, contact an air ambulance company to learn about this option. Air ambulances may be superior to ground transport because time is of the essence when critical patients need medical attention.

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