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Crit Care. 2008;12(2):207. doi: 10.1186/cc6782. Epub 2008 Mar 5.

Clinical review: critical care transport and austere critical care.

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  • 1Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 2200 Bergquist Drive, Suite #1, Wilford Hall Medical Center, Lackland Air Force Base, TX 78236, USA.


The development of modern intensive care units (ICUs) has allowed the survival of patients with advanced illness and injury, although at a cost of substantial infrastructure. Natural disasters and military operations are two common situations that can create critically ill patients in an environment that is austere or has been rendered austere. This has driven the development of two related strategies to care for these casualties. Portable ICU capability can be rapidly established in the area of need, providing relatively advanced capability but limited capacity and sustainability. The other strategy is to rapidly evacuate critically ill and injured patients following their initial stabilization. This permits medical personnel in the austere location to focus resources on a larger number of less critical patients. It also permits the most vulnerable patients to receive care in an advanced center. This strategy requires careful planning to overcome the constraints of the transport environment. The optimal strategy has not been determined, but a combination of these two approaches has been used in recent disasters and military operations and is promising. The critical care delivered in an austere setting must be integrated with a long-term plan to provide follow-on care.

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