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British Cardiovascular Society

Clinical Articles

Guidelines on Cardiovascular Fitness to Fly produced.

Over 200 million people fly through British airports each year – many with heart disease. How do these patients with heart disease know whether they can fly safely or whether flying might pose risks to their health?


Current advice is often confused and this can result in inappropriate restrictions being placed on the travel plans of thousands of patients. Healthcare professionals and patients have not had, until now, clear guidance based on the latest evidence to help give them the right advice. This is going to change in August when the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS)  publishes a report on passengers’ cardiovascular ‘Fitness to Fly’ in the journal, Heart.

On Tuesday 20 July, the report will be launched online at BMJ’s Heart website ( and on the BCS website (  The ‘Fitness to Fly’ report shows that there are very few heart conditions that mean that patients can’t fly safely. However, passengers are advised to inform their airline of any pre-existing heart conditions that they may have and take other precautions in their preparation to fly.

Whilst airlines do have the right to deny passage on the basis of a pre-existing heart condition, this report gives clear evidence that such denial is unnecessary in the vast majority of cases. This will be of great use to the travelling public and to all healthcare professionals and will mean that thousands of heart patients will be able to travel by air, reassured that expert guidelines have shown that it is safe to do so.

The comprehensive report includes a summary table of various specific heart conditions with advice on any necessary guidance or restrictions that should be considered for the passenger, as well as a thorough review and consideration of current evidence within this area.

The report is the result of a working group formed by the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) at the end of 2008, at the prompting of the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee. The working group was led by Dr David Smith, a Consultant Cardiologist based at the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust, and included representation from Airlines, Aviation authorities and experts from the field of Cardiology.

Keith Fox, President of the BCS said, “The new guidelines on fitness to fly for patients with heart conditions are good news for patients and good news for doctors. The British Cardiovascular Society publication (led by Dr David Smith) advises that there are very few heart conditions that mean a person should not fly.  For the first time, doctors have also been provided with clear and straightforward guidelines.”


  • The Fitness to Fly report was written by David Smith1,William Toff2, Michael Joy3 , Nigel Dowdall4, Raymond Johnston5, Liz Clark6, Simon Gibbs7, Nick Boon8, David Hackett9, Chris Aps10, Mark Anderson11, John Cleland12
  1. Cardiac Department, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, Exeter, UK
  2. Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Leicester, Faculty Member of the NIHR Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit, Leicester, UK
  3. Postgraduate Medical School, Surrey University, UK
  4. British Airways, UK
  5. UK Civil Aviation Authority, UK
  6. Peninsula Heart and Stroke Network, Plymouth, UK
  7. National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London and Department of Cardiology, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK
  8. Past President, British Cardiovascular Society, London, UK
  9. British Cardiovascular Society, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Hemel Hempstead General Hospital, UK
  10. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  11. The Cardiac Centre, Morriston Hospital, Swansea, UK
  12. Department of Cardiovascular and Respiratory Disease, University of Hull, Castle Hill Hospital, Hull, UK

Published on: July 22, 2010

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