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Wien Klin Wochenschr. 1997 Mar 14;109(5):145-59.

[Avalanche emergency. New aspects of the pathophysiology and therapy of buried avalanche victims].

[Article in German]

Author information

  • 1Bergrettungsarzt im Alpenverein Südtirol, Mitglied der Internationalen Kommission für Alpine Notfallmedizin, Bruneck, Italien.

Abstract

A series of investigations on the pathophysiology and management of persons buried in an avalanche has been undertaken over the past few years in response to increased awareness of the importance of emergency medical treatment of avalanche victims and the fact that the high mortality rate has not decreased in spite of the improvement in rescue techniques. This paper is the very first review of the problems encountered in avalanche disasters. The developments over the past 20 years, in particular, are summarized and discussed. Furthermore, current opinions and recommendations on optimal rescue procedure, as well as the prevention of such emergencies are presented. Precise assessment of the survival probability after burial under an avalanche and recognition of the prognostic importance of an air pocket, but only limited role of hypothermia, provide the basis for new concepts governing therapy and triage by the emergency doctor. Resulting guidelines have been endorsed by the Emergency Medicine Subdivision of the International Commission of the Alpine Rescue Services (ICAR) and these recommendations are intended for implementation by organised rescue teams in order to reduce secondary deaths following successful extrication of victims from the avalanche masses. However, the chance of being rescued alive depends primarily on the rapidity of extrication, i.e. how quickly the rescue teams are alerted and transported to the disaster area in the first instance, then how quickly the victims are located and extricated. In order to reduce the mortality additional preventive measures must be introduced to avoid complete burial if possible, or appreciably hasten the rescue procedure. The very steep drop ("fatal kink") in survival probability as from 15 minutes after burial underlines the absolute necessity of the mastery of efficient rescue procedure by uninjured companions. Improvement of the technical developments for the avoidance of total burial (avalanche air bag) and optimization of the electronic location (transceiver) of buried skiers by uninjured companions are essential future requirements. Nonetheless, primary prevention remains of paramount importance in governing decision making by offpiste skiers. Correct assessment of the inherent risks according to the prevailing circumstances and strict adherence to safety rules take precedence over all other considerations.

PMID:
9173662
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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