Effective use of the air ambulance for pediatric trauma

J Trauma. 2004 Jan;56(1):89-93. doi: 10.1097/01.TA.0000061163.35582.A5.


Background: The purpose of this study was to compare outcomes of pediatric trauma patients transported by helicopter from the injury scene (IS group) to a trauma center and those transported by air after hospital stabilization (HS group).

Methods: A retrospective analysis of pediatric trauma patients (<19 years of age) transported by air ambulance and admitted to a pediatric trauma center was conducted. Outcomes compared were mortality and length of stay. Patients were subdivided into minor (Injury Severity Score [ISS] < 15) and major (ISS > 15) trauma. TRISS analysis was performed to verify the overall quality of the care.

Results: Eight hundred forty-two HS and 379 IS patients were included. The mean age, median ISS, and distribution of penetrating and blunt injuries did not differ significantly between the groups. The overall death rate was significantly lower for the interfacility transfer patients (HS group, 5.5%; IS group, 8.7%; p < 0.05). Mean intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital length of stay did not differ significantly. HS patients with major trauma had significantly less mortality (HS group, 15.5%; IS group, 26.7%; p < 0.05) and shorter mean ICU stays (HS group, 118.3 hours; IS group, 149.1 hours; p < 0.05) than IS major trauma patients. No differences were seen in patients with minor trauma. TRISS analysis showed improved survival for all patients compared with Major Trauma Outcome Study norms.

Conclusion: Retrospective analysis was not able to demonstrate any benefit to direct transport from the scene to a trauma center. Hospital stabilization before transfer by air ambulance may improve survival and shorten ICU stays for patients with major trauma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Air Ambulances
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Registries
  • Survival Analysis
  • Transportation of Patients / methods*
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / classification*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / mortality
  • Wounds, Penetrating / classification*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / mortality