Study objective: Aeromedical crews offer an advanced level of practice and rapid transport to definitive care; however, their efficacy remains unproven. Previous studies have used relatively small sample sizes or have been unable to adequately control for the effect of other potentially influential variables. Here we explore the impact of aeromedical response in patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury.
Methods: This was a retrospective analysis using our county trauma registry. All patients with head Abbreviated Injury Score of 3 or greater were included; interfacility transfers were excluded. The impact of aeromedical response was determined using logistic regression, adjusting for age, sex, mechanism, preadmission Glasgow Coma Scale score, head Abbreviated Injury Score, Injury Severity Score, and the presence of preadmission hypotension. Propensity scores were used to account for variability in selection of patients to undergo air versus ground transport. Patients with moderate and severe traumatic brain injury, as defined by head Abbreviated Injury Score and Glasgow Coma Scale score, were compared. Finally, aeromedical patients undergoing field intubation were compared with ground patients undergoing emergency department (ED) intubation.
Results: A total of 10,314 patients meeting all inclusion and exclusion criteria and with complete data sets were identified and included 3,017 transported by aeromedical crews. Overall mortality was 25% in the air- and ground-transported cohorts, but outcomes were significantly better for the aeromedical patients when adjusted for age, sex, mechanism of injury, hypotension, Glasgow Coma Scale score, head Abbreviated Injury Score, and Injury Severity Score (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.90; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.60 to 2.25; P<.0001). Good outcomes (discharge to home, jail, psychiatric facility, rehabilitation, or leaving against medical advice) were also higher in aeromedical patients (adjusted OR 1.36; 95% CI 1.18 to 1.58; P<.0001). The primary benefit appeared to be in more severely injured patients, as reflected by head Abbreviated Injury Score and Glasgow Coma Scale score. Improved survival was also observed for air-transported patients intubated in the field versus ground-transported patients given emergency intubation in the ED (adjusted OR 1.42; 95% CI 1.13 to 1.78; P<.001).
Conclusion: Here we analyze a large database of patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Aeromedical response appears to result in improved outcomes after adjustment for multiple influential factors in patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. In addition, out-of-hospital intubation among air-transported patients resulted in better outcomes than ED intubation among ground-transported patients. Patients with more severe injuries appeared to derive the greatest benefit from aeromedical transport.