Use of lights and siren: is there room for improvement?

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ObjectiveThe objective of this study was to analyse the use of lights and siren (L&S) during transport to the hospital by the prehospital severity status of the patient and the time saved by the time of day of the mission.MethodsWe searched the Public Health Services data of a Swiss state from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2010. All primary patient transports within the state were included (24 718). The data collected were on the use of L&S, patient demographics, the time and duration of transport, the type of mission (trauma vs. nontrauma) and the severity of the condition according to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) score assigned by the paramedics and/or emergency physician. We excluded 212 transports because of missing data.ResultsA total of 24 506 ambulance transports met the inclusion criteria. L&S were used 4066 times, or in 16.6% of all missions. Of these, 40% were graded NACA less than 4. Overall, the mean total transport time to return to the hospital was 11.09 min (confidence interval 10.84–11.34) with L&S and 12.84 min (confidence interval 12.72–12.96) without. The difference was 1.75 min (105 s; P<0.001). For night-time runs alone, the mean time saved using L&S was 0.17 min (10.2 s; P=0.27).ConclusionAt present, the use of L&S seems questionable given the severity status or NACA score of transported patients. Our results should prompt the implementation of more specific regulations for L&S use during transport to the hospital, taking into consideration certain physiological criteria of the victim as well as time of day of transport.

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