Safety and usefulness of emergency maternal transport using helicopter

J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2008 Apr;34(2):189-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0756.2008.00756.x.


Aim: Japan has a shortage of tertiary medical care facilities for maternal and fetal medicine. Establishment of efficient medical transport systems is needed for pregnant women and fetuses with severe complications. Maternal transport by helicopters is expected to shorten transportation time to advanced facilities, although its feasibility has not yet been evaluated. The aim of the present study was to investigate the status of maternal helicopter transport, and conditions of the pregnant patients and children transferred by helicopter to Kameda Medical Center (KMC).

Methods: Between August 2005 and July 2006, 26 pregnant women were transported by helicopters to KMC.

Results: The median net flight time was 24 min (range 15-29 min), and the median of estimation of ground transportation time was 125 min (range 90-180 min). The causes for transfers were preterm labor in eight, preterm premature rupture of the membrane in five, cervical incompetence in five, pre-eclampsia in three and other medical reasons in five. Five of the 26 patients were discharged with restored stability of pregnancy. The remaining 21 patients underwent delivery at KMC. The median gestational age was 26 weeks (range 22-33 weeks) at the time of transfer and 31 weeks (range 22-37 weeks) at delivery. Four of 26 neonates who were born at KMC died after birth due to severe premature or congenital anomaly. Seventeen of the remaining 22 neonates, including 10 twins, received treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit. All of the 22 neonates and all the mothers were discharged in good condition. No patients developed any complications requiring treatment during flights.

Conclusion: Helicopter transfer is feasible for pregnant patients with severe complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Ambulances / standards*
  • Emergencies*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Patient Transfer / methods*
  • Patient Transfer / standards
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*