Effectiveness of helicopter versus ground ambulance services for interfacility transport

C L Arfken, M J Shapiro, P Q Bessey, B Littenberg
Journal of Trauma 1998, 45 (4): 785-90

BACKGROUND: Helicopters provide rapid interfacility transport, but the effect on patients is largely unknown.

METHODS: Patients requested to be transported between facilities by helicopter were followed prospectively to determine survival, disability, health status, and health care utilization. A total of 1,234 patients were transported by the primary aeromedical company; 153 patients were transported by ground and 25 patients were transported by other aeromedical services because of weather or unavailability of aircraft.

RESULTS: There were no differences at 30 days for survivors in disability, health status, or health care utilization. Nineteen percent of helicopter-transported patients died compared with 15% of those transported by ground (p=0.21).

CONCLUSION: The patients transported by helicopter did not have improved outcomes compared with patients transported by ground. These data argue against a large advantage of helicopters for interfacility transport. A randomized trial is needed to address these issues conclusively.

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