Trauma Patients Transported By Air Ambulance More Likely To Survive


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Trauma Patients Transported By Air Ambulance More Likely To Survive

By Steve Hall

December 15, 2010 - New research findings resulting from one of the largest studies of its kind finds strong evidence supporting the transport of trauma patients via air ambulance.

In a study released by the University of Rochester School of Medicine, trauma patients transported by helicopter were found to be more likely to survive and be discharged to home than those transported by ground.  

These results are particularly significant because the average trauma patient transported by helicopter is more severely injured, has a longer transport time, and requires more hospital resources than trauma patients transported by ground ambulance.

The Rochester study, entitled, ?Helicopters and the Civilian Trauma System: National Utilization Patterns Demonstrate Improved Outcomes After Traumatic Injury,? compared outcomes of over 250,000 injured patients transported by helicopter and ground ambulance using data from the National Trauma Databank, version 8.

Because patients transported by helicopter tend to be more severely injured than those transported by ground, the study took into account twelve covariates, including mechanism of injury, trauma center designation, and injury severity score (ISS), when performing its analysis. Using a stepwise logistic regression model, helicopter transport was found to be an independent predictor of survival after adjusting for patient, injury, and hospital-level variables.  

Previous studies on helicopter transport utilization focused on urban areas or specific regions of the country. This study, which includes the largest number of helicopter transport patients used in a single analysis, broadens the scope by examining the role of helicopter transport on a national level.  

?While we are excited about the publication of these newly released research findings, the data confirms what we already know from our experience in the field,? remarked Dr. Daniel Hankins, MD, FACEP, emergency physician and president of the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS). ?Air-medical transport is a highly effective medical intervention, particularly in rural areas where helicopters increasingly function as the primary access to trauma care.?


The study?s authors cite quick transport to definitive care, a higher level of care during transport, and a helicopter?s ability to access difficult terrain as potential explanations for helicopter transport?s reduced mortality rates. Additionally, the study found that severely injured patients were nearly three times more likely to be transported by helicopter and were more likely to have severe head injuries and abnormal presenting physiology.

This suggests that claims of over-triage in air medicine may not be as profound as previously reported, especially considering that distance and geography rather than injury severity alone may play a role in the decision to transport a patient by helicopter.

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