Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services Saves Time and Oxygen and Improves Patient and Mission Safety: A Pilot Study

Air Med J. Jul-Aug 2015;34(4):218-22. doi: 10.1016/j.amj.2015.02.008.


Noninvasive mechanical ventilation (NIMV) is used increasingly in patients with severe respiratory distress and has clear benefits over standard medical therapy (SMT) in terms of patient safety. NIMV is particularly useful in cardiogenic acute pulmonary edema and in exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, both of which are frequent reasons for an emergency medical services dispatch. Early use of NIMV avoids complications in these patients in many cases. To date, the use of noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation in the air medical environment has been minimally researched. We evaluated NIMV versus SMT in the helicopter emergency medical services environment in patients with cardiogenic acute pulmonary edema and exacerbated chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The parameters assessed were stabilization time, tolerance, safety, clinical response, and oxygen consumption. Bilevel noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation was the ventilatory mode used for all patients. The technique of NIMV in medical air transport is useful, easy to operate, and safe. It offers increased patient safety, reducing the need for invasive mechanical ventilation and its complications; better intervention times (35.8 minutes [NIMV] vs. 57.65 minutes [SMT], P < .05); improvement in aircraft operability; and a reduction in oxygen consumption (6.2 L/min vs. 9.8 L/min, P < .05), contributing to mission operability and safety.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Ambulances*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Noninvasive Ventilation*
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Time Factors


  • Oxygen