Study: Ambulance ride may lower survival chance for some injuries

Research shows victims of gunshots and stabbings are less likely to die if they are taken to the hospital in a private vehicle.
By Amy Wallace  |  Sept. 20, 2017 at 2:30 PM
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Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that for some types of injury, an ambulance may not be the best option for hospital transportation.

The study, published today in JAMA Surgery, found that victims of gunshots and stabbings are significantly less likely to die if taken to the hospital by a private vehicle instead of an ambulance.

"Unlike CPR and defibrillation for heart attacks, the type of damage done in penetrating trauma often can't be reversed in a prehospital setting," said Dr. Michael Wandling, an American College of Surgeons Clinical Scholar in Residence and general surgery resident at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release. "This study supports other studies that prehospital interventions can actually result in less favorable outcomes for certain types of injuries."

The study is one of the first to evaluate ambulance versus private vehicle transportation as far as overall health outcomes for patients of trauma.

Researchers analyzed data from the American College of Surgeons National Trauma Data Bank on 103,029 patients age 16 and older who were taken to a U.S. trauma center between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2012, for a gunshot or stab wound by an ambulance or private vehicle.

The study found that 16.4 percent of all patients were transported by private vehicle, with an overall 2.2 percent mortality rate for patients transported by private vehicle compared to 11.6 percent transported by ground ambulance.

Gunshot victims who were transported by private vehicle had a 4.5 percent mortality rate compared to 19.3 percent in victims transported by ground ambulance. Stabbing victims had a 0.2 percent mortality rate when transported by private vehicle compared to 2.9 percent by ground ambulance.

Researchers found that patients with penetrating injuries were 62 percent less likely to die when transported to the hospital by private vehicle compared to ambulance.

"Time is truly of the essence when it comes to certain kinds of injuries and our analysis suggests that, for penetrating injuries such as knife and gun wounds, it might be better to just get to a trauma center as soon as possible in whatever way possible," said Dr. Elliott Haut, an associate professor of surgery and emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins.

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