How Does Mission Ground Time Impact on Population Coverage of Aeromedical Retrieval Systems?

Academic Article


  • Background: Aeromedical retrieval is an essential component of contemporary emergency care systems. However, in many locations, ground emergency medical services are dispatched to the scene of an incident first to assess the patient and then call for a helicopter if needed. The time to definitive care therefore includes the helicopter's flight to the scene, flight to the trauma center, and nonflying time. Mission ground time (MGT) includes the time required to get the helicopter airborne, as well as time spent at the scene, packaging and loading the casualty into the aircraft. Estimates of MGT typically vary from 10 to 30 min. The impact of MGT duration on population coverage—the number of residents that could be taken to a trauma center within a set time—is not known. The aim of this study was to compare population coverage for different durations of MGT in a single state. Methods: Coverage was calculated using elliptical coverage areas (“isochrones”) based on the location of helicopter bases and Level I and Level II trauma centers. The calculations were performed using Microsoft Excel, assuming a cruising speed of 133 knots (246 km/h), and mapped using arcGIS. The access time threshold was set at 60 min, and we evaluated MGTs of 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 min. Results: MGT has a marked impact on population coverage. The effect is, furthermore, not linear. When considering the state's three Level I trauma centers, decreasing MGT from 30 to 10 min increased population coverage from 61.2% to 84.2%. When also considering Level II centers, decreasing MGT from 30 min to 10 min increased coverage by 20%. Conclusions: Elliptical isochrones, with allowance for MGT, provide realistic estimates of population coverage. MGT significantly impacts the proportion of the population that can be taken to a Level I and/or Level II Trauma Center within a set time. The impact is not linear, reflecting the uneven distribution of the population. Consideration should be given to minimizing MGT to preserve the benefits of aeromedical retrieval.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Smedley WA; Killian J; Stone KL; Stephens SW; Griffin RL; Cox DB; Kerby JD; Jansen JO
  • Start Page

  • 362
  • End Page

  • 369
  • Volume

  • 258