Objectives: To assess the difference in survival of trauma patients transported to a trauma unit via either road or air in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Design: Prospective database analysis.
Setting: Multicentre study utilising two trauma units.
Subjects: The study evaluated 428 subjects admitted to the two sites.
Outcome measures: Actual survival rates in each group (road and air) were compared with the predicted survival rates.
Results: In the road group, 38.96 people were predicted to die and 51 actually died, therefore 23.61% (or 12.04 people) died 'unnecessarily', i.e. they died after having been predicted to live. In the helicopter group, 38.15 people were predicted to die and 39 actually died, therefore 0.85 (39-38.15) people were not expected to die. The 0.85 people represent 2.18% (0.85/39) of the total number of dead in the helicopter group who died 'unnecessarily'. Therefore one could argue that introduction of helicopter transport reduces the number of dead by 21.43% (23.61-2.18).
Conclusions: Patients with a certain injury severity are more likely to survive if transported by air to a trauma unit.