From PubMed (abstract from Injury):
We sought to study the epidemiologic and medical aspects of alpine helicopter rescue operations involving the winching of an emergency physician to the victim.
We retrospectively reviewed the medical and operational reports of a single helicopter-based emergency medical service. Data from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2008 were analysed.
A total of 921 patients were identified, with a male:female ratio of 2:1. There were 56 (6%) patients aged 15 or under. The median time from emergency call to helicopter take-off was 7min (IQR=5-10min). 840 (91%) patients suffered from trauma-related injuries, with falls from heights during sports activities the most frequent event. The most common injuries involved the legs (246 or 27%), head (175 or 19%), upper limbs (117 or 13%), spine (108 or 12%), and femur (66 or 7%). Only 81 (9%) victims suffered from a medical emergency, but these cases were, when compared to the trauma victims, significantly more severe according to the NACA index (p<0.001). Overall, 246 (27%) patients had a severe injury or illness, namely, a potential or overt vital threat (NACA score between 4 and 6). A total of 478 (52%) patients required administration of major analgesics: fentanyl (443 patients or 48%), ketamine (42 patients or 5%) or morphine (7 patients or 1%). The mean dose of fentanyl was 188 micrograms (range 25-750, SD 127). Major medical interventions such as administration of vasoactive drugs, intravenous perfusions of more than 1000ml of fluids, ventilation or intubation were performed on 39 (4%) patients.
The severity of the patients’ injuries or illnesses along with the high proportion of medical procedures performed directly on-site validates emergency physician winching for advanced life support procedures and analgesia.
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