Challenges of helicopter mountain rescue missions by human external cargo: need for physicians onsite and comprehensive training
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Abstract Background: Human external cargo (HEC) extrication during helicopter rescue missions is commonly used in mountain emergency medical services. Furthermore, longline or winch operations offer the opportunity to deliver professional medical care onsite. As the safety and quality of emergency medical care depends on training and experience, we aimed to investigate characteristics of mountain rescue missions with HEC. ; Methods: We retrospectively reviewed all rescue missions conducted by Air Zermatt (a commercial rescue service in the high-alpine region of Switzerland) from January 2010 to September 2016. ; Results: Out of 11,078 rescue missions 1137 (10%) required a HEC rescue. In 3% (n=29) rapid sequence induction and endotracheal intubation, in 2% (n=14) cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and in 0.4% (n=3) a chest tube insertion had to be performed onsite prior to HEC extraction. The most common medical intervention onsite is analgesia or analgosedation, in 17% (n=142) fentanyl or ketamine was used in doses of ≥0.2mg or≥50mg, respectively. ; Conclusions: As these interventions have to be performed in challenging terrain, with reduced personnel resources, and limited monitoring, our results point out the need for physicians onsite who are clinically experienced in these procedures and specially and intensively trained for the specific characteristics and challenges of HEC rescue missions.
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