Helicopter Transport of Trauma Victims: Does a Physician Make a Difference?

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We studied the impact of physician presence on helicopter transportation of trauma victims during two periods; when physicians were part of the flight team and when they were not. Our data failed to demonstrate that physician participation in flights had an impact on patient outcome. The groups were comparable in average distance traveled, initial Trauma Scores, number of organ systems injured, and the final Injury Severity Scores. Each group showed an improved survival over that predicted by comparison with the Multiple Trauma Outcome Study cohort. No difference was found in the number of procedures performed at the scene, en route, or on arrival at the hospital. Untreated injuries were slightly higher in the physician-present group. It appears that experienced nurses and paramedics, operating with well-established protocols, can provide aggressive care that yields equal outcome results compared with those of a flight team that includes a physician.

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