Inter-hospital transport of critically ill patients; expect surprises

Crit Care. 2012 Feb 12;16(1):R26. doi: 10.1186/cc11191.


Introduction: Inter-hospital transport of critically ill patients is increasing. When performed by specialized retrieval teams there are less adverse events compared to transport by ambulance. These transports are performed with technical equipment also used in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU). As a consequence technical problems may arise and have to be dealt with on the road. In this study, all technical problems encountered while transporting patients with our mobile intensive care unit service (MICU) were evaluated.

Methods: From March 2009 until August 2011 all transports were reviewed for technical problems. The cause, solution and, where relevant, its influence on protocol were stated.

Results: In this period of 30 months, 353 patients were transported. In total 55 technical problems were encountered. We provide examples of how they influenced transport and how they may be resolved.

Conclusion: The use of technical equipment is part of intensive care medicine. Wherever this kind of equipment is used, technical problems will occur. During inter-hospital transports, without extra personnel or technical assistance, the transport team is dependent on its own ability to resolve these problems. Therefore, we emphasize the importance of having some technical understanding of the equipment used and the importance of training to anticipate, prevent and resolve technical problems. Being an outstanding intensivist on the ICU does not necessarily mean being qualified for transporting the critically ill as well. Although these are lessons derived from inter-hospital transport, they may also apply to intra-hospital transport.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness* / therapy
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units* / standards
  • Mobile Health Units* / standards
  • Patient Transfer / methods*
  • Patient Transfer / standards
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transportation of Patients / methods*
  • Transportation of Patients / standards