Objective: To assess whether a top-level type of prehospital care, made of helicopter, physician, and advanced life support (ALS) procedures, improves the outcome of blunt trauma victims found in cardiac arrest (CA) as compared with a simpler type, composed of ground ambulance, nurse, and expanded basic life support (BLS).
Methods: This was a cohort study from the data set of a prospective, population-based, 12-month study targeting the 1,200,000 inhabitants of the Italian region Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Results: Fifty-six victims received the higher level of care (helicopter emergency medical services [HEMS] group) and 73 received the lower one (ground-BLS group). The two groups were homogeneous for mechanism of injury, gender, and time interval before cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Age was lower in the ground-BLS group. The percentage of patients in which CPR was attempted was significantly higher in the HEMS group (43% vs. 20%; CI 0.061 to 0.379). On-scene return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) was also more likely in the HEMS group (37.5% of attempted CPRs vs. 6.6%; CI 0.027 to 0.591). None of the patients evacuated from the scene without ROSC ever attained it in hospital. This policy was virtually exclusive to the ground-BLS group. Survival to hospital discharge was 3.5% (severely disabled) in the HEMS group and 0% in the ground-BLS group (CI -0.008 to 0.078).
Conclusion: A top-level type of prehospital care had significantly more chances to resuscitate blunt trauma victims found in CA as compared with a simpler level. No significant benefit on long-term outcome was found, but more cases might be needed in future studies because of the inevitably low number of survivors.