A retrospective study from Italy compared outcomes of head injured patients cared for by a ground ambulance service (GROUND) with those managed by a HEMS team that included an experienced pre-hospital anaesthetist. Interestingly 73% of the ground group were also attended by a physician, but one ‘with only basic life-support capabilities and no formal training in airways management’. Despite these limited skills a results table shows that 36% of the GROUND group were intubated on scene (compared with 92% of the HEMS group), although without the use of neuromuscular blockers.
The HEMS group consisted of 89 patients and the GROUND group of 105 patients. There were no statistical differences in age, ISS, aISShead, or GCS, although arterial hypotension at arrival at the ER was present in 18% of HEMS patients and in 36% of GROUND patients (P < 0.001).
The overall mortality rate was lower in the HEMS than in the GROUND group (21 vs. 25% , P < 0.05). The survival with or without only minor neurological disabilities was higher in the HEMS than in the GROUND group (54 vs. 44% respectively, P < 0.05); among the survivors, the rate of severe neurological disabilities was lower in the HEMS than in the GROUND group (25 vs. 31%, P < 0.05). The out-of-hospital phase duration was longer in the HEMS group but this group had a faster time to definitive care (neurosurgery or neurocritical care).
Influence of prehospital treatment on the outcome of patients with severe blunt traumatic brain injury: a single-centre study
Eur J Emerg Med. 2009 Dec;16(6):312-7