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Burns. 2002 Feb;28(1):70-2.

Helicopter transportation of burn patients.

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The Western Pennsylvania Hospital, 4815 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA.


Analysis of 437 consecutive acute burn patients transported to our burn center revealed 339 transported by ground and 98 by helicopter. There were 18 air transport patients from within a 25-mile-radius, and 80 flown further than 25 miles. Mean age was the same in all groups (P>0.05). Percent total body surface area (TBSA) burned was 8.26% in ground transport patients, significantly less than the 20.35% (within 25 miles) and 21.40% (greater than 25 miles) seen in helicopter transports (P<0.0001). Three percent of ground transport patients and 28% of helicopter patients had inhalation injury (P<0.0001). There was no difference in incidence of inhalation injury among helicopter groups (28 vs. 29%, P=0.8). In patients with coexistent inhalation injury, the mean TBSA burned was significantly larger when compared with the TBSA of burns without inhalation injury (P<0.001). Air transported groups contained patients whose status was not critical based upon lack of inhalation injury and small burn size, and who could have been transported by ground. Non clinical factors such as insurance status, desire to keep ground ambulances in their community, and competing helicopter services reluctant to refuse to transport a patient appears to be factors in choosing air ambulance transportation. Regional single helicopter services and regional cooperative ground ambulance services should reduce use of helicopter transport of burn patients when it is not clinically indicated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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