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A few minutes after his flight reached cruising altitude, Dr. Alan Hunter responded to a flight attendant's call for a doctor on board. A passenger was having a stroke, or so it seemed, the attendant said. This was certainly urgent — a passenger having a stroke could be one reason for an emergency landing.
But the passenger, whose face was drooping on one side, wasn't having a stroke after all, Hunter determined. Rather, the passenger had an unusual yet typically temporary condition, resulting in part from pressure changes in the airplane. No emergency landing was needed, and with Hunter's help, the patient was soon feeling fine.
Hunter - Medicine - Doctor - Oregon - Health
Hunter, who is an internal medicine doctor at Oregon Health & Science University, said he had never seen a case like this before. To alert other doctors about this condition, Hunter described the case in a report published Monday (Jan. 27) in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
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Diagnosing patients on planes is "not something I do every day," Hunter told Live Science. "I certainly wondered upon going [to the patient], 'What would I be facing? ... Would I have to divert [the plane]?'"
Hunter - Call - Patient - Hunter - Headache
When Hunter responded to the call, the patient told Hunter that he'd had a sudden headache and pain and a sense of fullness in his ears, as well as slurred speech and drooling. But the case didn't look like a stroke, Hunter said. When people's faces droop on one side during a stroke, usually either the...
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