Aeromedical helicopter transport of prisoners: The Mexico City experience

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 May:43:224-228. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.03.009. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Introduction: Helicopter medical transport of prisoner patients has unique logistical and medical challenges, as well as potential risks to healthcare providers. Prisoners have specific requirements for safe transport, and it is of paramount importance to know the variables related to transport related mortality since most prisoners that need air evacuation are critically ill. Because we understand that there is a potentially dangerous nature of transport of this population, and because of the unique nature of them, we aimed to provide a detailed insight on predictors of outcome in prisoners who were injured as a result of trauma and that needed to be transported via air medical transport in Mexico City.

Methods: A retrospective chart analysis was conducted using data from the Mexico City Police Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) for air medical transport of felons that occurred between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2013. Subject demographics, injury, procedures performed, transport time, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), and mortality were collected. Exploratory data analysis, Chi-square, and T-test were performed. Statistical significance was assumed to be p ≤ 0.05 for two-sided hypothesis.

Results: Fifty-three patients were included in this study. Forty-two were men and 11 were women. Median age of the patients was 30 ± 8 years. Total transport time was 23 ± 5 min. Gunshot wounds accounted for 39.6% of patients, stabbing wounds 28.3%, head trauma 7.5%, motor vehicle accidents 5.7%, blunt trauma (i.e., fist assaults) 5.6%, falls 5.7%, motorcycle accidents 3.8%, and prisoner-motor vehicle collisions 3.8%. Median heart rate was 114 ± 41 beats per minute (BPM), median systolic blood pressure (SBP) was 103 ± 14 mmHg, median diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was 70 ± 12 mmHg, and median GCS was 10 ± 5. Mortality rate was 16.9% (n = 9). The variables that were statistically significant, and therefore related to mortality were: heart rate > 130 bpm (p < 0.001), SBP <95 mmHg (p = 0.039), GCS <7 (p = 0.040), age > 42 years (range, 17-47 years) p < 0.001, and need for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: As dangerous and challenging as it may seem, air medical transport of prisoners by a police crew physician, may be safe and reliable, since no complications or safety events were observed.

Keywords: Air medical transport; Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Prisoners; Trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air Ambulances / standards*
  • Aircraft*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisoners*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*
  • Young Adult