Beneficial effect of helicopter emergency medical services on survival of severely injured patients

Br J Surg. 2004 Nov;91(11):1520-6. doi: 10.1002/bjs.4756.


Background: In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, a helicopter-transported medical team (HMT), staffed with a trauma physician, provides additional therapeutic options at the scene of injury. This study evaluated the influence of the HMT on the chance of survival of severely injured trauma victims.

Methods: This was a 2-year prospective observational study of consecutive adults who suffered multiple trauma (Injury Severity Score (ISS) 16 or more) and presented to the Erasmus Medical Centre emergency ward. The effect of the HMT was quantified by an odds ratio (OR), adjusted for confounding variables in logistic regression models.

Results: Complete data for a total of 346 patients were available for analysis. Two hundred and thirty-nine patients were treated by ambulance personnel alone and 107 received additional HMT assistance. Patients in the HMT group had significantly lower Glasgow Coma Scale scores (mean 8.9 versus 10.6; P = 0.001) and a higher ISS (mean 30.9 versus 25.3; P < 0.001). The unadjusted OR for death was 1.7 in favour of the group treated by ambulance staff only (OR for survival 0.61 (95 per cent confidence interval (c.i.) 0.37 to 1.0, P = 0.048)). After adjustment, however, patients in the HMT group had an approximately twofold better chance of survival (all injuries: OR 2.2 (95 per cent c.i. 0.92 to 5.9), P = 0.076; blunt injuries: OR 2.8 (95 per cent c.i. 1.07 to 7.52), P = 0.036).

Conclusion: The presence of the HMT may increase chances of survival for patients suffering multiple trauma, especially for those with blunt trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Ambulances*
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy*
  • Netherlands
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Transportation of Patients / methods*