AIM, PATIENTS, AND METHODS: To compare retrospectively the outcomes of patients with severe traumatic brain injury (Injury Severity Score, ISS total >or=15; the Abbreviated ISS-head, aISS(head) >or=9) admitted to our Intensive Care Unit by helicopter (helicopter emergency medical service, HEMS group = 89) with those transported by ambulance (GROUND group = 105) from January 2002 to December 2007.
Results: The groups were comparable for age, Glasgow Coma Scale, ISS total, and aISS(head). The preadmission time of the HEMS group was significantly longer as compared with the GROUND group, but the interval from admission to definitive care was significantly shorter. In the prehospital phase, HEMS patients were more aggressively treated, as indicated by a significantly greater number of procedures performed (i.e. tracheal intubation and positioning of intravenous lines) and larger volumes of fluids infused. The overall mortality was lower in the HEMS than in the GROUND patients (21 vs. 25% respectively, P<0.05). The survival with or without only minor neurological disabilities was higher in the HEMS than in the GROUND group (54 vs. 44% respectively, P<0.05); among the survivors, the rate of severe neurological disabilities was lower in the HEMS than in the GROUND group (25 vs. 31%, P<0.05).
Conclusion: In our experience, aggressive early treatment of patients with severe traumatic brain injury was associated with a better outcome likely because of the prevention of secondary brain injury and a shorter interval elapsing from the trauma to definitive care despite more time spent on the scene by the intervening team.