More than 10 million people, many elderly and likely to harbor cardiovascular (CV) disease, embark on cruise ship travel worldwide every year. The clinical presentation and outcome of CV emergencies presenting during cruise ship travel remain largely unknown. Our department provides contracted cardiology consultations to several large cruise lines. We prospectively maintained a registry of all such consultations during a 2-year period. One hundred consecutive patients were identified (age 66 ± 14 years, range 18 to 90, 76% men). The most common symptom was chest pain (50%). The most common diagnosis was acute coronary syndrome (58%; ST elevation in 21% and non-ST elevation in 37%). On-board mortality was 3%. Overall, 73% of patients required hospital triage. Of the 25 patients triaged to our institution, 17 underwent a revascularization procedure. One patient died. Ten percent of patients had cardiac symptoms in the days or weeks before boarding; all required hospital triage. Access to a baseline electrocardiogram would have been clinically useful in 23% of cases. In conclusion, CV emergencies, such as acute coronary syndrome and heart failure, are not uncommon on cruise ships. They are often serious, requiring hospital triage and coronary revascularization. A pretravel medical evaluation is recommended for passengers with a cardiac history or a high-risk profile. Passengers should be encouraged to bring a copy of their electrocardiogram on board if abnormal. Cruise lines should establish mechanisms for prompt consultation and triage. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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