Heart problems, bleeding on the brain and bowel problems top a list of the most expensive medical costs for New Zealanders travelling overseas, an insurance company says.

The highest medical claim reached $245,000 for a traveller suffering an aortic aneurism in the United States, while a bleeding on the brain by a patient visiting Europe came to $234,000.

The list, compiled by Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI), also included a patient admitted to a hospital in Asia with the paralysing disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome ($140,000) and a traveller who needed radiotherapy while visiting the US ($121,000).

The company's chief executive Craig Morrison that any requirement for medical attention overseas could quickly add up and those who travelled without insurance were extremely vulnerable to a large unpaid financial liability.


"The reality is that unfortunate incidents can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of the trip duration."

Sometimes hospitals in the US would request a deposit of up to $10,000 before they would even start providing treatment, he said.

"If you end up in a US hospital and are asked to pay, you should immediately call your travel insurer's emergency assistance number."

Where practical travellers should carry a copy of their travel insurance policy and programme the emergency assistance number into their phones, Mr Morrison said.

"Travellers are frequently brought back in business class, as many cases require additional space for the person to be able to fully extend, particularly those that have had recent surgery or a lower limb injury."

There were also occasions where a stretcher would be placed in the rear of a commercial flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to repatriate the insured home, he said.

Top 10 claims for 2013 - for medical costs as a result of accidental injuries and medical emergencies:

1. $245,000 - suffered an aortic aneurysm while travelling in the USA.

2. $234,000 - helicoptered to a larger hospital in Europe with bleeding and water on the brain.

3. $196,000 - admitted to hospital in Europe suffering abdominal sepsis and bowel obstruction.

4. $187,000 - required investigation in Europe for cerebellar ataxia.

5. $180,000 - suffered respiratory failure secondary to pneumonia and severe bronchospasm while on-board a cruise ship, brought back to New Zealand by air ambulance.

6. $140,000 - admitted to hospital in Asia and diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and aspiration pneumonia.

7. $135,000 - suffered a fatal stroke while travelling in the USA.

8. $121,000- fell while in the USA and fractured their spine, caused by cancer and required radiotherapy.

9. $120,000 - suffered a bowel obstruction while on-board a cruise ship, admitted to hospital in Asia for surgery.

10. $90,000 - admitted to hospital in the South Pacific Islands following a seizure after renal failure, brought back to New Zealand by air ambulance.