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Study provides national time averages for transporting trauma patients by ambulance and helicopter

A new study, supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10914), and conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, provides the first average national prehospital care intervals. This is the average time it takes ambulances and helicopters to transport trauma victims to the hospital. The findings will allow policymakers to compare individual Emergency Medical Service (EMS) systems to national norms and will enable EMS systems to compare their times to national and regional averages. Average prehospital transport times will also provide the basis for rational conversations with the public, which demands quick, sometimes unrealistic, response times for trauma victims.

The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 49 articles that reported prehospital times (the amount of time from notification until delivery of the patient at the hospital) for trauma patients transported by helicopter and ground ambulance over a 30-year period. The studies examined activation time, response time, on-scene time, and transport time. The data were drawn from 20 States in all 4 U.S. Census Regions and represented the prehospital experience of 155,179 patients.

As shown in the Figure (9 KB), the average duration in minutes for urban, suburban, and rural ground ambulances for the total prehospital interval were 30.96, 30.97, and 43.17; for the response interval were 5.25, 5.21, and 7.72; for the on-scene interval were 13.40, 13.39, and 14.59; and for the transport interval were 10.77, 10.86, and 17.28. Average helicopter ambulance times were prehospital 72.91 minutes, response 23.25 minutes, on-scene 20.43 minutes, and transport 29.80 minutes.

The researchers note that the prehospital intervals can help guide clinical decisionmakers in better allocating trauma system resources. The results of this study emphasize a need for a standardized method of gathering prehospital time intervals to accurately compare trauma systems and to facilitate more precise research on trauma outcomes.

See "A meta-analysis of prehospital care times for trauma," by Brendan G. Carr, M.D., M.A., Joel M. Caplan, M.A., E.M.T., John P. Pryor, M.D., and Charles C. Branas, Ph.D., in the April 2006 Prehospital Emergency Care 10(2), pp. 198-206.

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