Healthy Living: Helicopters helping to save lives
According to two recent studies, severely injured patients flown to trauma centers by helicopter are more likely to survive than those driven by ambulance. Casey Bortnick reports.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
When every second counts, it appears how you get there really does matter.
"Helicopters do have an impact in the management of trauma patients," said Dr. Mark Gestring, critical care surgeon.
According to two recent studies, severely injured patients flown to trauma centers by helicopter are more likely to survive than those driven by ambulance.
"We were hoping it would show what it showed. But we really wanted to look at it objectively," said Dr. Gestring.
Dr. Mark Gestring is the director of the Kessler Trauma Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He found that despite the challenges many patients who are air lifted face, their rate of survival was better than those transported by ground.
"They make trauma center services available to people who wouldn't otherwise get them…because of the distances involved."
These two new studies refute smaller studies that suggest helicopters are overused.
"The reality is the helicopter is an expensive resource," said Neil Snedeker, Mercy Flight Central.
Mercy Flight is a nonprofit air medical services company in upstate New York. With a $12 million a year budget, even its chief operating officer admits the cost can seem overwhelming. But he says this new research is providing much needed context.
"Specifically the hospital, rehabilitation, doctors, nurses... The price of the helicopter really is a small piece of the pie," said Snedeker.
Ground teams point out the helicopter is limited by weather conditions, and should only be used when a patient is more than 25 miles away from a trauma center.
"You have to compare apples to apples in these studies and look at the distances involved and look at the care levels of the providers involved," said Lee Coller, Rural Metro Ambulance.
Gestring says the next step is to better determine which patients are in need of services only trauma centers can provide. Gestring says when you look at the data one thing is clear: Helicopters are saving lives.
"I think this is clearly a shot in the arm for air medical services and the role of helicopters. And now the trick is to use them appropriately," said Gestring.