Intubation during a medevac flight: Safety and effect on total prehospital time in the helicopter emergency medical service system

Hiroki Maeyama, Hiromichi Naito, Francis X. Guyette, Takashi Yorifuji, Yuki Banshotani, Daisaku Matsui, Tetsuya Yumoto, Atsunori Nakao, Makoto Kobayashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: The Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) commonly intubates patients who require advanced airway support prior to takeoff. In-flight intubation (IFI) is avoided because it is considered difficult due to limited space, difficulty communicating, and vibration in flight. However, IFI may shorten the total prehospital time. We tested whether IFI can be performed safely by the HEMS. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study in adult patients transported from 2010 to 2017 who received prehospital, non-emergent intubation from a single HEMS. We divided the cohort in two groups, patients intubated during flight (flight group, FG) and patients intubated before takeoff (ground group, GG). The primary outcome was the proportion of successful intubations. Secondary outcomes included total prehospital time and the incidence of complications. Results: We analyzed 376 patients transported during the study period, 192 patients in the FG and 184 patients in the GG. The intubation success rate did not differ between the two groups (FG 189/192 [98.4%] vs. GG 179/184 [97.3%], p = 0.50). There were also no differences in hypoxia (FG 4/117 [3.4%] vs. GG 4/95 [4.2%], p = 1.00) or hypotension (FG 6/117 [5.1%] vs. GG 5/95 [5.3%], p = 1.00) between the two groups. Scene time and total prehospital time were shorter in the FG (scene time 7 min vs. 14 min, p < 0.001; total prehospital time 33.5 min vs. 40.0 min, p < 0.001). Conclusions: IFI was safely performed with high success rates, similar to intubation on the ground, without increasing the risk of hypoxia or hypotension. IFI by experienced providers shortened transportation time, which may improve patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 7 2020


  • Air ambulance
  • Airway management
  • Time-to-treatment
  • Transportation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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