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Equipment for pre-hospital airway management on Helicopter Emergency Medical System helicopters in central Europe

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For advanced out-of-hospital airway management, skilled personnel and adequate equipment are key prerequisites. There are little data on the current availability of airway management equipment and standards of medical staff on Helicopter Emergency Medical System (HEMS) helicopters in central Europe. Methods:

An internet search identified all HEMS helicopters in Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg. We identified 15 HEMS helicopter bases in Switzerland, 28 in Austria and three in Luxembourg. A questionnaire was sent to all bases, asking both for the details of the clinical background and experience of participating staff, and details of airway management equipment carried routinely on board. Results:

Replies were received from 14 helicopter bases in Switzerland (93%), 25 bases in Austria (89%) and all three bases in Luxembourg. Anaesthesiologists were by far the most frequent attending physicians (68–85%). All except one bases reported to have at least one alternative supraglottic airway device. All bases had capnometry and succinylcholine. All bases in the study except two in Austria had commercial pre-packed sets for a surgical airway. All helicopters were equipped with automatic ventilators, although not all were suitable for non-invasive ventilation (NIV; Switzerland: 43%, Austria: 12%, Luxembourg: 100%). Masks for NIV were rarely available in Switzerland (two bases; 14%) and in Austria (three bases; 12%), whereas all three bases in Luxembourg carried those masks. Conclusion:

Most HEMS helicopters carry appropriate equipment to meet the demands of modern advanced airway management in the pre-hospital setting. Further work is needed to ensure that appropriate airway equipment is carried on all HEMS helicopters.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Anaesthesiology, University Erlangen – Nuernberg, Erlangen, Germany 2: Schwarzenbruck, Germany 3: REGA, Swiss Air Rescue, Zürich, Switzerland 4: Department of Anaesthesiology, Emergency Medicine and Intensive Care, Landesklinikum Wiener Neustadt, Wiener Neustadt, Austria

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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