Background: US Air Force (USAF) pararescuemen (PJs) perform long-range ocean rescue missions for ill or injured civilians when advanced care and transport are not available. The purpose of this case series is to examine the details of these missions, review patient treatments and outcomes, and describe common tactics, techniques, and procedures for these missions.
Methods: Cases in which the USAF PJs preformed long-range ocean rescue for critically ill or injured civilians between 2011 and 2018 were identified. Case information was obtained, including patient demographics, location, infiltration/exfiltration methods, diagnoses, treatments, duration of patient care, patient outcome, and lessons learned.
Results: A total of 14 pararescue missions involving 22 civilians were identified for analysis. Of the 22 patients, 10 (45%) suffered burns, six (27%) had abdominal issues, four (18%) had musculoskeletal injuries, one had a traumatic brain injury, and one had a necrotizing soft-tissue infection. Medical care of these patients included intravenous fluid and blood product resuscitation, antibiotics, analgesics, airway management, and escharotomy. The median duration of patient care was 51 hours.
Conclusion: This case series illustrates the complex transportation requirements, patient and gear logistical challenges, austere medicine, and prolonged field care (PFC) unique to USAF PJ open-water response.