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Patients with acute, intracranial bleeding (ICB), particularly from intracranial aneurysms, are believed to be at high risk for rebleeding or neurologic deterioration if subjected to noise, motion, or stress, but are transported by helicopter with increasing frequency. This study was undertaken to examine the characteristics, safety, and outcomes of air transport for patients with acute subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) or other forms of acute ICB in an air medical system.
Charts of all patients with spontaneous, acute ICB who were transported by air from 1986 through 1989 were reviewed. Age, gender, time of transport, transport management measures, pre- and post-transport Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital days, operations, and mortality were compiled for all patients and analyzed.
Eighty-seven patients ranging in age from 2 to 83 years (mean: 47.5 ±18.5 years) met entry criteria. The source of bleeding was cerebral aneurysm in 37 patients; intraparenchymal hemorrhage in 29; an unidentified vascular source in 11; and arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in 10. Mean GCS score measured in 69 patients before and after transport was 10.5 ±4.5 Glasgow Coma Scale score did not change during transport in 61 patients (88%), improved in three (4%), and deteriorated in five (7%). Fifty-nine patients (69%) underwent operations, 36 (41%) within 24 hours of arrival. Mean ICU stay was 14 days (95% CI: 12–15); mean hospital stay was 36 days (95% CI: 27–45 days). Overall mortality was 25% (95% CI: 16–34 days). A GCS score of 3 to 8 at time of transport was associated with both increased hospital length of stay and higher mortality. Patients transported within eight hours of symptom onset had lower GCS scores, but out-come measures were not significantly different from those transported later.
Emergency air medical transfer of patients with acute ICB for definitive neurosurgical care appears to be both safe and effective, and facilitates early definitive diagnosis and operative intervention.
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