Search and Rescue Helicopters for Emergency Medical Service Assistance: A Retrospective Study

Published:April 11, 2021DOI:



      The time until treatment is a crucial factor for the outcome after medical emergencies. One way of reducing transportation time is the use of helicopter-based emergency medical services, but poor weather conditions, commitment to another mission, or technical problems may limit the availability. In these cases, military search and rescue (SAR) helicopters can be used. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of SAR helicopters in the civilian emergency medical system.


      We conducted a retrospective study of SAR mission reports and SAR medical records collected from the archives of the Royal Danish Air Force for the years 2016 and 2017.


      A total of 1,262 mission reports were included with a total of 628 medical records available in the study period. There were 490 of 1,246 (39.3%) missions involving patients. Interhospital transfers accounted for 306 of 604 (50.7%) of cases, whereas island evacuation constituted 110 of 604 (18.2%) cases. The most prevalent suspected diagnosis was acute coronary syndrome (14.4%). The 30-day survival rate was 87.6%.


      The military SAR helicopters were most commonly activated for civilian emergency medical service mission assistance due to poor weather conditions. The most frequent medical condition was acute coronary syndrome.
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