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Travel Health & Safety Blog

The pros and cons of medical imaging onboard a superyacht


In the 35+ years since MedAire’s inception, medical technology has become more advanced, increasingly compact and perhaps most importantly, more user friendly for non-medical professionals. This has provided greater possibilities for onboard diagnosis for yachts.

The Covid pandemic saw many vessels get to grips with new equipment, technology and processes like PCR testing and while health needs onboard change, we continue to see a demand for increased medical capabilities and diagnostics on yachts, especially as shoreside medical care is seeing a strain on resources around the world.

When clients consult us about a major piece of equipment, we look at a wide variety of factors like the training level of the crew onboard, the need for the equipment, the space for the equipment etc.

Imaging is one such tool that developments in technology has enabled onboard - but how feasible is this to deploy, what are the benefits for crew and is it necessary for superyachts to have? In this blog we reflect upon some of those questions.


Imaging is the process of taking photos of inside the body to help diagnose an injury or illness.

Different types of imaging are used to detect different injuries and illnesses and the most frequently used are:

  • X-Ray: the most common form of imaging, an X-Ray uses electromagnetic energy primarily to take images of bones, but can also be used to detect tooth problems, lung problems and heart problems.
  • Ultrasound: Uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of organs, soft tissues and bones. Common use-cases include: Internal bleeding (through the FAST scan method) monitoring and identifying pregnancy, with additional expanded uses, for example:
    • Identifying ectopic pregnancy
    • Ovarian cysts
    • Diagnostic tests for the heart, liver, abdomen, bladder or kidneys
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): An MRI is a large piece of equipment that uses magnetic fields to create detailed 3D images of organs and tissues in the body.
  • CAT/CT Scan: Takes multiple X-Ray images to create a detailed 3D cross-section image of blood vessels, bones and soft tissues.
  • PET Scan uses radioactive drugs to show how your tissues and organs are functioning.

X-Ray and ultrasound equipment are most commonly used onboard yachts, although we have assisted clients in deploying CT Scanners.


The medical advice you get, is only as good as the information you give. A picture is worth a thousand words and imagery provides a huge amount of information accurately and quickly to MedLink:

  • Guest and owner satisfaction / peace of mind: if there’s an injury onboard, the ability to be scanned immediately for appropriate diagnosis (rather than go shoreside) is vital to the guest or owner
  • Avoids diversions: With injury you are treating what you suspect until you can rule it out. In the case of a fracture, if you think it’s broken - treat it as a fracture. With x-ray you can rule out a fracture, and treat as a soft tissue injury. This would mean the difference between diverting to a shoreside facility for examination or the crew member returning to light duty.
  • Low energy usage: Thanks to advances in technology.
  • Presets: allow for easy placement of the limb or body, making it easy for non-radiographers to take images.
  • Allows crews to identify internal bleeding: Often the signs of internal injury are masked by other injuries or are identified late, due to shock compensatory mechanisms. Using an ultrasound can be used to identify if there is internal bleeding, telling you how much and where from.

X-Ray case study: Chief Officer gets her leg caught between the tender and main vessel.

Chief Officer calls MedAire, describing her pain as a 7/10. The medical professional suggests a shoreside X-Ray, to be certain that nothing is fractured.

The next available appointment is in a few days time and MedLink advise rest and recuperation in the meantime, so as not to antagonise any potential breaks. This means the vessel is down a Chief Officer for a few days.

Chief Officer has to spend a total of three hours travelling to the facility, getting the scan and then travelling back to the vessel, accompanied by one of the deckhands, resulting in further lost time.

Alternative: With an onboard X-Ray machine, MedLink is able to very quickly link to our radiology and radiography support team, using the scans to provide concise advice to the patient as to whether further treatment is required.

After no fractures are perceived, the team are able to rule out the need for a hospital appointment, allowing the Chief Officer to return back to light duty.


MedAire provide a comprehensive solution, from service and maintenance considerations to onboard training and radiology support and assistance.

If you’re interested in learning more about imaging onboard, speak to your account manager or contact us here.


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