Costly helicopter transport linked with higher survival rates

Although hospitals are looking for ways to cut costs, helicopter transport is worth the expense, as a study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association found adults with serious injuries are more likely to survive if transferred to a top-level trauma center by helicopter rather than by ground transport.

In fact, patients transported by helicopter had a 16 percent better chance of survival, according to what researchers deemed the most rigorous comparison of helicopter and ground transport to date.

"We were careful at every step to balance all the potential other factors that could explain any benefit of the helicopter. After all that, the survival advantage of helicopters remained," principal investigator Samuel M. Galvagno Jr., assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a statement yesterday.

The researchers noted that time and crew expertise also factored into whether helicopter transport improves patient survival. They also contended that more research is needed to determine effective pre-hospital assessment tools to identify appropriate utilization of costly helicopter transport, according to AHA News Now.

This study may dispute research last fall that found transporting patients by helicopter isn't always the best option. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School concluded that 63 percent of transferred patients didn't need immediate attention and could have been stabilized at the original hospital and then transferred by ground transportation, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the UMD press release
- here's the AHA News Now brief