Background: Recently, questions have been raised regarding the effectiveness of helicopters in trauma care. We conducted a retrospective study to evaluate the effect of on-scene helicopter transport on survival after trauma in a statewide trauma system.
Methods: Data were obtained from a statewide trauma registry of 162,730 patients treated at 28 accredited trauma centers. Patients transported from the scene by helicopter (15,938) were compared with those transported by ground with advanced life support (ALS) (6,473). Interhospital transfers and transports without ALS were excluded. Statistical analysis was performed using one-way analysis of variance and logistic regression.
Results: Patients transported by helicopter were significantly (p < 0.01) younger, were more seriously injured, and had lower blood pressure. They were also more likely to be male and to have systolic blood pressure < 90 mm Hg. Logistic regression analysis revealed that when adjusting for other risk factors, transportation by helicopter did not affect the estimated odds of survival.
Conclusion: A reappraisal of the cost-effectiveness of helicopter triage and transport criteria, when access to ground ALS squads is available, may be warranted.