Research confirms RFDS role in survival of patients badly injured in regional WA

Major trauma patients in remote Western Australia significantly increase their chances of survival if they receive early medical intervention and retrieval by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, according to new research from Perkins Centre for Clinical Research in Emergency Medicine.

Professor Daniel Fatovich, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Western Australia, the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and Royal Perth Hospital, said that with the isolation and tyranny of distance in regional WA, major trauma patients in remote areas were twice as likely to die from their injuries as their Perth counterparts.

"The study we conducted found, however, that initial medical intervention by rural hospitals, RFDS doctors and subsequent retrieval by the RFDS to Perth had a positive impact on outcomes for severe trauma cases from rural areas." Professor Fatovich said.

"Survival was similar between rural patients retrieved by the RFDS and metropolitan patients, even though it takes roughly an hour for a Perth patient to arrive at a tertiary hospital Emergency Department, but over 11 hours for a rural trauma patient."

"This survival outcome is excellent given that the severity of the trauma in regional WA, often caused by motor vehicle crashes, was greater than that of a metropolitan trauma patient," he said.

Dr Stephen Langford, Medical Director of the RFDS in WA, said that the study results were particularly pleasing "in that they demonstrate over a nine year period that despite double the risk of death for regional trauma victims, those who survived to be evacuated by the RFDS have equivalent outcomes to those injured in Perth".

Dr Langford said the study was a substantial one, reviewing nine years of RFDS data and comparing outcomes with an equivalent period of major trauma data from Perth's teaching hospitals.

"The study highlights the challenges of providing emergency care to major trauma victims in rural and remote areas," Dr Langford said.

The research study was jointly undertaken by researchers of Royal Perth Hospital, Royal Flying Doctor Service, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (formerly the Western Australian Institute of Medical Research) and University of Western Australia. It was supported by WA Health, the Raine Medical Research Foundation, and the Trauma Registry.

This research was published in "Resuscitation", official journal of the European Resuscitation Council.

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