Air Versus Ground Transportation in Isolated Severe Head Trauma: A National Trauma Data Bank Study.

Research paper by Alberto A Aiolfi, Elizabeth E Benjamin, Gustavo G Recinos, Alejandro A De Leon Castro, Kenji K Inaba, Demetrios D Demetriades

Indexed on: 21 Dec '17Published on: 21 Dec '17Published in: The Journal of Emergency Medicine


The effect of prehospital helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) on mortality has been analyzed previously in polytrauma patients with discordant results.Our aim was to compare outcomes in patients with isolated severe blunt traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) transported by HEMS or ground emergency medical services (GEMS).We conducted a National Trauma Data Bank study (2007-2014). All adult patients (≥16 years old) who sustained an isolated severe blunt TBI and were transported by HEMS or GEMS were included in the study.There were 145,559 patients who met the inclusion criteria. Overall, 116,391 (80%) patients were transported via GEMS and 29,168 (20%) via HEMS. Median transportation time was longer for HEMS patients (41 vs. 25 min; p < 0.001). HEMS patients were more likely to have hypotension (2.7% vs. 1.5%; p < 0.001), Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score < 9 (38.2% vs. 10.9%; p < 0.001), and head Abbreviation Injury Scale (AIS) score of 5 (20.1% vs. 9.7%; p < 0.001). Stepwise logistic regression analysis identified age ≥ 65 years old, male sex, hypotension, GCS score < 9, prehospital intubation, and head AIS scores 4 and 5 as independent predictors of mortality. Helicopter transportation was independently associated with improved survival (odds ratio [OR] 0.55; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.47-0.67; p < 0.001). Admission to a Level I trauma center was an independent predictor of survival (OR 0.64; 95% CI 0.53-0.82; p = 0.001). Regardless of head AIS, helicopter transport was an independent predictor of survival (AIS 3: OR 0.35; p < 0.001; AIS 4: OR 0.44; p < 0.001; AIS 5: OR 0.76; p < 0.001). A prolonged transport time was not an independent predictor of mortality.Helicopter transport, in adult patients with isolated severe TBI, is associated with improved survival.