Effectiveness of helicopter versus ground ambulance services for interfacility transport

J Trauma. 1998 Oct;45(4):785-90. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199810000-00031.


Background: Helicopters provide rapid interfacility transport, but the effect on patients is largely unknown.

Methods: Patients requested to be transported between facilities by helicopter were followed prospectively to determine survival, disability, health status, and health care utilization. A total of 1,234 patients were transported by the primary aeromedical company; 153 patients were transported by ground and 25 patients were transported by other aeromedical services because of weather or unavailability of aircraft.

Results: There were no differences at 30 days for survivors in disability, health status, or health care utilization. Nineteen percent of helicopter-transported patients died compared with 15% of those transported by ground (p=0.21).

Conclusion: The patients transported by helicopter did not have improved outcomes compared with patients transported by ground. These data argue against a large advantage of helicopters for interfacility transport. A randomized trial is needed to address these issues conclusively.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Ambulances / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ambulances / statistics & numerical data*
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Transportation of Patients / methods
  • Transportation of Patients / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States