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Papers of the Week

2020 Apr 17

Prehosp Emerg Care

Emergency Care Provided by the Israeli Military Airborne Combat Evacuation Unit during Helicopter Winch Rescue Operations.


Guinzburg A, Epstein D, Cohen J, Kiso S, Aviram E, Shapira S, Shavit I, Miller A
Prehosp Emerg Care. 2020 Apr 17:1-9.
PMID: 32301641.


The objective of this study was to evaluate the emergency care provided by the Israeli Military Airborne Combat Evacuation Unit (MACEU) during helicopter winching operations. A retrospective cohort study was performed of all patients rescued by winching by the MACEU between December 2011 and October 2018. Data were extracted from the electronic medical records of the unit registry. The data collected included helicopter type, scene times, demographics, mechanism of injury, interventions, medications, and survival. During the study period, 208 civilians with a mean age of 36.8 ± 19.2 years were evacuated from inaccessible areas, 192 were from difficult terrain, 10 from sea vessels, and 5 from floods. All patients were winched up with a crewmember. No patient or crewmember was injured during winching. Overall, 156/208 (75%) had a traumatic injury, and 52/208 (25%) had a medical emergency. Sikorsky UH-60 'BlackHawk' helicopters and Sikorsky CH-53 'Sea Stallion' helicopters were used in 179 and 28 operations, respectively. Eighteen different procedures were performed by the medical personnel of the unit on scene and en route. The most performed procedures were peripheral vascular access establishment (60.6%), fluids administration (57.7%), oxygen supplementation (42.8%), analgesia (39.9%) and spine immobilization (37.5%). On scene, none of the patients was treated with a physician-only intervention. Thirty/208 (14.5%) patients were winched-up in darkness conditions. Eleven/208 (5.3%) apneic breathing patients were winched up ventilated by a crewmember. All the six patients who had oxygen saturation ≥89% after entrance into the cabin, survived. The reported MACEU experience provides useful information on the clinical characteristics, medical interventions, and outcomes of patients rescued using a winching operation. Study findings emphasize the importance of airway management and ventilation during winching.