We compared the outcome of 472 trauma patients who required ambulance attention and who received prehospital advanced life support (ALS) with another similar 589 patients who received only basic life support (BLS). Nontrapped, critically injured ALS patients were treated for an average of 13 minutes at the scene of injury, compared with 17 minutes for BLS cases (P less than .05). Seventeen of 37 ALS deaths (36%) occurred within 24 hours of injury, compared with 24 of 33 BLS fatalities (73%) (P less than .05). However, the overall case fatality rate was similar in the two groups, and regression analyses did not demonstrate an impact of ALS care on mortality. ALS resuscitation did not reduce the duration of hospital or intensive care unit stay, or the incidence of disability after head injury. However, the incidence of respiratory failure in the critically injured patients was 5% (ALS) and 19% (BLS) (P less than .025). ALS care appeared to influence patient outcome during the first 24 hours after injury, but had little impact on the later clinical course. Our sample size was too small to rule out any effect of ALS on in-hospital mortality. However, the improved 24-hour survival associated with ALS care suggests some benefit of prehospital resuscitation in major trauma.