Helicopter transport of patients during acute myocardial infarction

Raye L. Bellinger, Robert M. Califf, Daniel B. Mark, Rita A. Weber, Patricia Collins, Janice Stone, Harry R. Phillips, Lawrence German, Richard S. Stack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Initial experience with a regional system of emergency helicopter transport of patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) referred for emergent cardiac catheterization and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) is described. Two hundred fifty patients with AMI were transported from within a 150-mile radius to Duke University Medical Center over a 15-month period. All patients were within 12 hours of onset of symptoms. Thrombolytic therapy was administered to 240 (96%) patients (72% before or in-flight). The time to administration of thrombolytic therapy ranged from 30 to 120 minutes (median 180), while the time to arrival in the interventional catheterization laboratory ranged from 105 to 815 minutes (median 300). The flight time was 12 to 77 minutes (median 31). Most patients had 1- or 2-vessel coronary artery disease; the baseline ejection fraction ranged from 27 to 70% (median 42). Transient hypotension was the most common complication both pre-flight and inflight. Third-degree atrioventricular block and nonsustained ventricular tachycardia were the next most common complications. Ventricular fibrillation or sustained ventricular tachycardia occurred before takeoff in 38 patients (15%). No patients had ventricular fibrillation, asystole or respiratory arrest during transport. Fluid boluses for hypotension were the most common intervention. Five patients required cardiopulmonary resuscitation in-flight; 3 before liftoff and 2 required a brief period of cardiopulmonary resuscitation during sustained ventricular tachycardia. Fourteen patients had presser therapy, military antishock trousers or both to maintain adequate blood pressure. Neither cardioversion, defibrillation nor intubation were performed in-flight. Thus, inflight complications are infrequent and can be managed en route to an intervention center. The overall benefit of regional helicopter transportation relative to its cost has yet to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-722
Number of pages5
JournalThe American Journal of Cardiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Apr 1 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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