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Emergency Medical Transport By Air Carries Risks

Stabilization of patients before flight may prevent many adverse events, researchers say

TUESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Among acutely ill patients who travel by emergency air transport, one in 20 experience a "critical event" -- they die, suffer from dangerously low blood pressure or need to be resuscitated, Canadian researchers have found.

Women are at special risk, as are those with heart disease, traumatic injuries and other problems, according to the study by Dr. Jeff Singh, of the University Health Network in Toronto, and colleagues.

The observation that women are more at risk of adverse events "may be attributable to differences in disease presentations, differential treatment or differences in referral patterns and transport requests between men and women," the study authors explained in a news release from CMAJ, the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study looked at 19,228 adults who were transported by air in Ontario, Canada. The researchers found that better preparation before the patients were transported could have prevented many of the problems.

"This data may provide insight for medical crew training regarding likely in-flight medical management scenarios, or markers for more robust stabilization of patients by hospital staff preparing patients for transport," Dr. Alex Isakov, of the department of emergency medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, wrote in a commentary accompanying the study. "It may also help in the development of evidence-based criteria for dispatch."

The study findings appear in the Sept. 14 issue of CMAJ.

More information

Learn more about emergency medicine from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: CMAJ, news release, Sept. 14, 2009

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