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Air Travel and Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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UCLA Center for the Health Sciences; Los Angeles, California

Ann Intern Med. 1984;100(4):595-597. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-100-4-595
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The article by Schwartz and coworkers (1) in this issue serves as an effective reminder that some passengers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can markedly reduce their arterial oxygen tension (PO2) to 30 to 40 mm Hg at altitudes commonly flown by high-flying, pressurized jet aircraft (1500 to 2400 m). This information is particularly relevant because air transportation today is relatively expeditious, popular, safe, and often economical for both healthy and ill passengers. It has been estimated that 5% of commercial airline passengers are ambulatory patients with some disease or illness (2), including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Whereas some patients


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