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Are helicopters safer than ambulances?

After a serious accident, you are likely to be transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. In the most severe cases or when an accident occurs in a remote location, you may be transported by helicopter. It might not occur to you until you or a loved one is involved in a serious car accident or suffers a serious injury, but a new study shows that how you travel to the hospital could make a difference. Interestingly, these methods of transport can have an impact on the level of care you receive and the likelihood of survival.

Research shows that those who suffer serious injuries may have a better chance of surviving if they are taken by helicopter rather than an ambulance. It is believed that the both the speed of transport and the crew aboard the helicopter contribute to the increased level of care and safety for victims. It is possible that ground crews do not have the same tools and training as those in the helicopters, according to one of the researchers.

While the difference in numbers was not staggering, they do suggest that helicopter transport is better for patients, even when the duration of travel was same. If you or someone you love is involved in an accident, an ambulance transport may not be the best option.

A helicopter is normally used when a patient is more than 30 minutes away by ground. While they can be more costly, transport by helicopter can increase the rate of survival for victims of serious injury. While the research needs further analysis and development, this study suggests that those who travel by helicopter tend to do better than those who are transported by ambulance.

Source: Reuters, "Trauma patients taken by chopper may fare better," Andrew M. Seaman, April 17, 2012.

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