Children in critical condition frequently need to be transferred to a hospital with a focus on children after early stabilization. Although using specialist pediatric transport teams has been linked to better clinical results for these kids, it was uncertain if using a helicopter or ground ambulance during the transfer further affected those outcomes.

For a study, researchers sought to determine how severely sick kids moved to a single pediatric hospital by a specialist pediatric transport team fared in terms of outcomes. By restricting the analysis to patients for whom a helicopter transfer was first requested, they created a retrospective cohort study to lessen indication bias. The outcomes of patients who finally went by helicopter and those who ultimately traveled by ground ambulance because of non-clinical variables were compared.

They compared travel times, hospital length of stay, and in-hospital mortality by transport method. In terms of minutes, helicopter transfers (median = 143, interquartile range [IQR]: 118–184) took less time than ground ambulance transports (median = 289, IQR: 213–258; difference in medians = 146, 95% CI: 12 to 168, P<0.001). Helicopter transport did not differ from ground ambulance transport in terms of in-hospital mortality (helicopter = 6.0%, ground ambulance = 7.0%; 95% CI for difference: -6.6% to 3.3%; P=0.64); however, it did reduce median hospital days by a statistically significant amount (helicopter = 4, ground ambulance = 5; 95% CI -3 to 0; P=0.04). There were no statistically significant connections in the adjusted analysis. The outcomes were true throughout sensitivity tests.

Patients who would have been transported by helicopter if one had been available but were instead transported by ground ambulance among critically ill pediatric patients without traumatic injuries who were transported by a specialty team arrived at their location of definitive care roughly 2.5 hours later. Although it was not linked to in-hospital mortality for these individuals, helicopter transfer may have resulted in shorter hospital stays.