Advanced or basic life support for trauma: meta-analysis and critical review of the literature

J Trauma. 2000 Oct;49(4):584-99. doi: 10.1097/00005373-200010000-00003.


Background: The question of whether to use advanced life support (ALS) or basic life support (BLS) for trauma patients in the prehospital setting has been much debated and still lacks a clear answer. The purpose of this study was to conduct a comprehensive critical review of the literature regarding this controversy

Methods: A total of 174 articles on prehospital ALS or BLS for trauma were reviewed. Fifteen of these studies were found to involve mortality statistics for both ALS- and BLS-treated patients. Odds ratios were calculated for survival in ALS versus BLS and summarized across studies on the basis of multivariate scoring systems that incorporated both design and methodological assessment. Overall odds ratios for all studies were calculated on the basis of both raw data from the papers, and weighted odds ratios were calculated from the scoring systems.

Results: Six studies were scored as being methodologically average (5 favoring BLS and 1 favoring ALS), two were scored as good (1 favoring BLS and 1 favoring ALS), seven as excellent (6 favoring BLS and 1 favoring ALS). Ten studies had an average study design score (6 favoring BLS and 4 favoring ALS) and seven had a good study design score (6 favoring BLS and 1 favoring ALS). Weighted odds ratio for dying was 2.59 for patients receiving ALS compared with those receiving BLS. The crude odds ratio was 2.92.

Conclusion: The aggregated data in the literature have failed to demonstrate a benefit for on-site ALS provided to trauma patients and support the scoop and run approach.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Gravity Suits
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Intubation, Intratracheal
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality