Medical helicopter accidents in the United States: a 10-year review

J Trauma. 2004 Jun;56(6):1325-8; discussion 1328-9. doi: 10.1097/


Objective: There has been a significant proliferation of medical helicopters and medical helicopter operations in the United States over the last decade. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the proliferation of medical helicopter operations in the United States was associated with a subsequent increase in the number of accidents

Methods: We used univariate descriptive analysis of all pertinent medical accident files obtained from United States aviation databases for a 10-year period (1993-2002).

Results: There were 84 medical helicopter accidents involving 260 persons (passengers, patients, crew, and pilots) during the 10-year study period. Of these, there were 72 fatalities and 64 injuries. The incidence of fatalities was 0.86 fatalities per accident. The incidence of nonfatal injuries was 0.76 per accident. Fifty-two percent of all reported accidents occurred during the last 3 years of the study period (2000-2002).

Conclusion: There was a steady and marked increase in the number of medical helicopter accidents in the United States during the 10-year period (1993-2002). These findings are worrisome in light of recent research that has indicated use of medical helicopters may be excessive and nonbeneficial for most patients.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Aviation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Air Ambulances / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Safety
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology