Helicopter Emergency Medical Service
Air medical transport has only been used for the past 70 years. The first true air ambulance flight was during the Great War. A Serbian officer was transported from the battlefield to the hospital by plane. Air ambulance was being tested by different military organizations during the First World War. Schaefer Air services was the first United States air ambulance service, created in 1947. The Korean War was the big turning point for EMS helicopters. In 1950, the military was given authorization to use helicopters for medical purposes. These helicopters were used to evacuate injured patients from the battlefield during combat. The small helicopters were equipped with basket stretchers that were attached to the landing gear. The patients were transported outside of the aircraft, which did not allow for medical during transport. From January 1951 to January 1953 more than 17,000 patients were removed from the battlefield and transported to the hospital by helicopter. The use of medical helicopter transport significantly decreased the causality/death rate among the people in combat. World War II death/causality rate was 4.5 deaths per 100 casualties, whereas, the Korean War death/casualty rate was 2.5 deaths per 100 casualties. The Vietnam War introduced to idea of patients receiving medical care during air transport. The Bell UH-1 also known as the Huey was the frost helicopter that was large enough to carry the patient and medical staff inside the aircraft. The state of Maryland started the nation’s first combined emergency service helicopter program, in 1969. This program was put into place by the Maryland State Police and the University of Maryland. The program joined together the state police, rescue and HEMS (helicopter emergency medical service). In 1972, St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver Colorado was the first hospital to have civilian hospital-based helicopter transport. This hospital-based helicopter transport system is still in use today and is now intergrated with Denver EMS.
The attributes of helicopter transport are speed, accessibility, specialized personnel and technology. Modern medical helicopters are capable of sustain speeds in excess of 150mph. This allows for patients to be transported to a specialized care center much faster than ground transport. Using a helicopter allows for emergency medical personnel to access patients in places ground crews cannot go. A helicopter can take off and land in a vertical motion. Emergency medical helicopters are staffed with highly trained and skilled staff. EMS helicopters are equipped with highly sophisticated medical technology and can reach people across a wide geographical area. When considering the use of the EMS helicopter you should take all these attributes into consideration. If these attributes are not important, then the use of an expensive EMS helicopter should not be used.
Air medical transport can pose its own stressors to patients, medical staff and medical equipment. These stressors are more predominant in fixed-wing operations rather than helicopter transport. Hypoxemia is the biggest threat to people who fly. However helicopters no dot exceed 1000 feet above sea level. Patients being transported by helicopter are at no significant risk of hypoxemia secondary to decreased ambient pressure. Acceleration of the aircraft is another factor that can stress the patient. Helicopter acceleration force is not that much different than that of ground transport. Acceleration is more significant in fixed-wing aircraft. Noise is a major issue when it comes to helicopter transport. The noise inside the helicopter causes problems for the medical staff. The noise may hinder the medical staff from hearing lung sounds. The staff must use headphones and an intercom system to communicate. Vibration of the aircraft is another problem for the patient and staff. The vibrations can cause fatigue and discomfort to the patient....
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