Challenges of helicopter mountain rescue missions by human external cargo: need for physicians onsite and comprehensive training

Pietsch, Urs; Strapazzon, Giacomo; Ambühl, Dimitri; Lischke, Volker; Rauch, Simon; Knapp, Jürgen (2019). Challenges of helicopter mountain rescue missions by human external cargo: need for physicians onsite and comprehensive training. Scandinavian journal of trauma, resuscitation and emergency medicine, 27(1), p. 17. BioMed Central 10.1186/s13049-019-0598-2

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BACKGROUND: Human external cargo (HEC) extrication during helicopter rescue missions is commonly used in mountain emergency medical services. Furthermore, longline or winch operations offer the opportunity to deliver professional medical care onsite. As the safety and quality of emergency medical care depends on training and experience, we aimed to investigate characteristics of mountain rescue missions with HEC. METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed all rescue missions conducted by Air Zermatt (a commercial rescue service in the high-alpine region of Switzerland) from January 2010 to September 2016. RESULTS: Out of 11,078 rescue missions 1137 (10%) required a HEC rescue. In 3% (n = 29) rapid sequence induction and endotracheal intubation, in 2% (n = 14) cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and in 0.4% (n = 3) a chest tube insertion had to be performed onsite prior to HEC extraction. The most common medical intervention onsite is analgesia or analgosedation, in 17% (n = 142) fentanyl or ketamine was used in doses of ≥ 0.2 mg or ≥ 50 mg, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: As these interventions have to be performed in challenging terrain, with reduced personnel resources, and limited monitoring, our results point out the need for physicians onsite who are clinically experienced in these procedures and specially and intensively trained for the specific characteristics and challenges of HEC rescue missions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic and Policlinic for Anaesthesiology and Pain Therapy

UniBE Contributor:

Knapp, Jürgen


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




BioMed Central




Jeannie Wurz

Date Deposited:

27 Jun 2019 11:06

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 19:17

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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