Effects of physician-based emergency medical service dispatch in severe traumatic brain injury on prehospital run time

Injury. 2012 Nov;43(11):1838-42. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2012.05.020. Epub 2012 Jun 12.


Introduction: Prehospital care by physician-based helicopter emergency medical services (P-HEMS) may prolong total prehospital run time. This has raised an issue of debate about the benefits of these services in traumatic brain injury (TBI). We therefore investigated the effects of P-HEMS dispatch on prehospital run time and outcome in severe TBI.

Methods: Prehospital run times of 497 patients with severe TBI who were solely treated by a paramedic EMS (n = 125) or an EMS/P-HEMS combination (n = 372) were retrospectively analyzed. Other study parameters included the injury severity score (ISS), Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), prehospital endotracheal intubation and predicted and observed outcome rates.

Results: Patients who received P-HEMS care were younger and had higher ISS values than solely EMS-treated patients (10%; P = 0.04). The overall prehospital run time was 74 ± 54 min, with similar out-of-hospital times for EMS and P-HEMS treated patients. Prehospital endotracheal intubation was more frequently performed in the P-HEMS group (88%) than in the EMS group (35%; P<0.001). The prehospital run time for intubated patients was similar for P-HEMS (66 (51-80)min) and EMS-treated patients (59 (41-88 min). Unexpectedly, mortality probability scores and observed outcome scores were less favourable for EMS-treated patients when compared to patients treated by P-HEMS.

Conclusion: P-HEMS dispatch does not increase prehospital run times in severe TBI, while it assures prehospital intubation of TBI patients by a well-trained physician. Our data however suggest that a subgroup of the most severely injured patients received prehospital care by an EMS, while international guidelines recommend advanced life support by a physician-based EMS in these cases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Ambulances
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology
  • Brain Injuries / therapy*
  • Emergency Medical Services* / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intubation, Intratracheal / methods*
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Physicians*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Workforce