Helicopters save lives

February 4, 2014

Patients transported to hospital by helicopter have a better chance of surviving traumatic injuries than those transported by ground ambulance despite having more severe injuries and needing more surgical interventions, states a study published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery.

Researchers from the Departments of Surgery at the Columbus Regional hospital, Atlanta Medical Center and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and at the University of Calgary conducted a 10-year study comparing the injuries, and outcomes of transported to hospital by air or ground ambulance. The types of injuries investigated ranged from to falls to all-terrain vehicle accidents.

The researchers found that patients brought to hospital by ground ambulance more often died in the emergency room than patients brought by air: 585 versus 43 deaths, respectively. The authors state that this improved survival may be explained by the availability of more advanced monitoring and equipment and more medications as well as the presence of a flight nurse and paramedic in the air ambulance.

"This American-based study has considerable applicability to Canadian patients," says Chad Ball, the study author from the University of Calgary. "Given that so many of our patients are located in geographically remote locations, timely transport to trauma centres is a persisting concern. We also know that patients who live in rural areas carry a higher risk of death after injury than their urban-based counterparts. Appropriate air ambulance transport is one potential method to shorten transfer times to definitive care and therefore decrease this risk."

The debate over outcome differences between patients transported to hospital by air and those transported by ground ambulance has continued for more than two decades, but there is general consensus that severely injured patients transported by air have a better chance of survival. The controversy is whether helicopter transport is necessary for particular cohorts of patients.

"The improved outcomes in our study indicate that appropriate helicopter transport, even with the associated cost and safety risk, is beneficial to severely injured patients," the authors state.

The authors note that the cost of air ambulance services, at least in the United States, has been concerning to third-party payers as well as patients. They state the dramatic difference between charge and reimbursement is often borne by the patients and their families.

Although cost–benefit analyses are warranted, the authors indicate that "air ambulance transport for is vitally important given increasing patient volumes, the limited number of trauma centres and inadequate subspecialty coverage in nontrauma hospitals."

Explore further: Emergency helicopter airlifts help the seriously injured

Related Stories

Emergency helicopter airlifts help the seriously injured

June 21, 2013
Patients transferred to hospital via helicopter ambulance tend to have a higher survival rate than those who take the more traditional road route, despite having more severe injuries. The research, published in BioMed Central's ...

Helicopter heroes save lives

September 27, 2012
The benefits and cost effectiveness of helicopter transport for severely injured patients is of continued debate. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Critical Care shows that for severe blunt trauma, ...

Study: Transport of trauma patients by helicopter costly but effective

April 17, 2012
Seriously injured trauma patients transported to hospitals by helicopter are 16 percent more likely to survive than similarly injured patients brought in by ground ambulance, new Johns Hopkins research shows.

Interfacility helicopter ambulance transport of neurosurgical patients

October 12, 2011
Doctors may be sending too many patients by helicopter, an expensive choice that may not impact patient outcome

New study examines cost-effectiveness of helicopter transport of trauma victims

April 25, 2013
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have for the first time determined how often emergency medical helicopters need to help save the lives of seriously injured people to be considered cost-effective ...

Recommended for you

Defining optimal opioid pain medication prescription length following surgery

September 27, 2017
A new study led by researchers at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital analyzed opioid prescription data from the Department of Defense Military Health System Data Repository, identifying ...

Is older blood OK to use in a transfusion?

September 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—Using older red blood cells to give transfusions to critically ill patients doesn't appear to affect their risk of dying, Australian researchers report.

One weight-loss surgery shows lasting results

September 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—Obesity surgery can have long-lasting effects on weight and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, a new study finds.

Hold the phone: An ambulance might lower your chances of surviving some injuries

September 20, 2017
Victims of gunshots and stabbings are significantly less likely to die if they're taken to the trauma center by a private vehicle than ground emergency medical services (EMS), according to results of a new analysis.

Surgeons have major influence on breast cancer treatment

September 13, 2017
A woman's choice of surgeon plays a significant role in whether she's likely to receive an increasingly popular aggressive breast cancer surgery.

Some thyroid cancer patients can safely delay surgery

September 4, 2017
Most people diagnosed with cancer want to start treatment as soon as possible, for fear that delaying care will allow their tumor to grow out of control.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.