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Helicopter transport is safer than ambulance

April 20, 2012

When involved in a serious accident or after suffering trauma, victims need to be transported to the nearest hospital. Usually they are taken by ambulance, but when injuries are life-threatening or when the accident occurs remotely, victims are often taken by helicopter. The care received by a patient while in transport can be critical to survival.

New research suggests that patients who are transported by helicopter in New Jersey and nationwide have a better survival rate and are more likely to fare better, generally, than patients who are transported by ambulance. This can be critical for patients who suffer brain or spinal cord injuries.

According to research, injured passengers or drivers have a better survival rate if they are transported by helicopter rather than an ambulance. Most of the time, passengers are treated for trauma or rushed to the hospital after a car accident. Some believe that the speed of transport and the training of the crew make it more likely for victims to survive if taken by helicopter. Researchers also believed that ground crews don’t have the same tools available to them as helicopter crews.

Helicopters are primarily used when an accident is more than 30 minutes by ground. While there is an added cost, it can increase the survival rate for victims of serious injury. The time difference provides a cushion for doctors who can take earlier action once the patient arrives at the hospital.

While the research was cursory and should be developed further, the statistical difference does highlight the difference in care, treatment, and survival rates among trauma patients. Now even doctors believe that those who are transported by helicopter get better treatment and tend to fare better after a serious accident.

Source: Reuters, “Trauma patients taken by chopper may fare better,” Andrew M. Seaman, April 17, 2012.

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