Medical helicopter beats ambulance for trauma victims.
For the critically injured, there are two choices for getting to a hospital – ground ambulance or helicopter. While many critics decry the use of helicopters for emergency transportation because of cost and potential crashes, it turns out a trip to the ER via the sky may actually improve a person’s chances for survival.
After a thorough analysis of the largest aggregation of trauma data from 2007 to 2009, researchers found that flying to the hospital is associated with a 16 percent increased rate of survival for patients taken to Level 1 trauma centers, which handle the most severe injuries.
“There’s been considerable controversy in this area over the last decade – highlighted by several prominent crashes,” said the study’s lead investigator Samuel Galvagno, assistant professor for the Department of Anesthesiology, Divisions of Trauma Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine for the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “There have been calls for limiting helicopter resources, but we weren’t really sure if there were any benefit or equivalent outcomes to ground transport.”
“But in the end, the helicopter comes out on top,” Galvagno said. “It was a highly statistically significant benefit.”
The research done by Galvagno and his team is the most extensive analysis of helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) and ground emergency medical services (GEMS) to date. The study looked at over 220,000 adult patients who had sustained blunt or penetrating trauma – giving them an injury severity score over 15 (critically injured).
Even when controlling for other factors, there was strong evidence indicating significant survival benefits of HEMS over ground transportation, which the researchers are hoping to give a little more credit to the somewhat unpopular helicopter. According to Galvagno, there is a large number of HEMS critics who want to get rid of helicopters as forms of emergency transportation altogether.