Is Aeromedical Transportation Safe?

Often the question is answered with another question, namely what are the alternatives? Any transportation of an injured or ill patient is bound to create problems, whether accomplished on land or in the air, but as far as aeromedical transportation, there are many steps that have been taken to ensure its safety.

For example, the restraint systems and the positioning of the patient have been greatly ameliorated. Inspired oxygen has been added, and is given at gradients necessary over and above the normal cabin pressure so that patients who are experiencing breathing problems can be saved from additional oxygen deprivation. This is why those aeromedical transportation airplanes are now equipped with a pulseoximeter so that oxygen intake is properly maintained.

During the acceleration as well as the deceleration process today the patient is especially positioned so that the patient feels much less stress. As we are all aware taking a flight greatly reduces the amount of humidity in the air we breathe, thus special precautions are also taken to humidify the air that the patient breathes.

Also, because sound is so important for instance in auscultation of the sounds in the patient’s lungs, special aircraft are utilized that enable normal conversation to be carried on without the sound of the engines interfering. Granted the needs of each patient varies substantially, but if a physician is necessary to accompany the aeromedical transport, one will be available.

Decidedly such procedures as angioplasty, or even emergency thrombolytic therapy cannot be extended to something performed as a procedure while in the air, however it has been shown that an emergency transfer to a hospital within the crucial hours of acute myocardial infarction are definitely able to save the patient at hospitals that can perform these services. However, some physicians have been able to perform miracles while en route, such as chest thoracostomy, central veneous access placement and intraosseus infusion.

Decisions as to whether or not to utilize aeromedical transportation should be made carefully, of course, but when a patient requires neurosurgical intervention that is not accessible locally the decision is actually pretty easy to make. For example if the patient is suffering from depressed skull fractures, or penetrating injuries, or even chest wall trauma, then aeromedical transportation is definitely indicated. Many specialized centers focus on intra-thoracic vascular injuries, and many specialize in cardiac injuries as well. The patient’s age also comes into play in making that decision, for instance if the patient is under the age of 5 or above 55, that may indicate a reason for aeromedical transportation. This also includes those with preexisting conditions such as pre-existing physiological impairments. For example those suffering from cardiorespiratory disease may also be a reason for exigency in medical evacuation of the patient.

Granted the medical field changes every day, but the acceptance of aeromedical transportation has finally become a fundamental portion of critical care medicine. Thus more and more non-aeromedical practioners have seen the wisdom of using this extraordinarily safe and critical new development in modern medicine.