Big Problem for Air Ambulances: Huge Patients
Providers have to upgrade helicopters or reject patients
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2013 3:44 AM CDT
Medical helicopter flight crews now keep measuring tools on board to make sure patients can fit inside.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Emergency medical providers across America are being forced to get bigger, stronger helicopters to deal with rising numbers of patients too heavy to be carried in the current helicopters—or too big to fit in the aircraft, NBC reports. Around 1% of patients who need medical air flights, or about 5,000 patients a year, are denied transport because of their size and have to go by ground ambulance instead, significantly raising the risk of death on the way to the hospital.

Weight limits vary around the country, with some providers turning away patients over 250 pounds and others able to carry patients up to 650 pounds. "It’s an issue for sure," says an exec at Air Methods, one of the biggest air medical transport providers. "We can get to a scene and find that the patient is too heavy to be able to go." The exec himself had weight-loss surgery after he reached 335 pounds and was alarmed to realize that he was to big to fit on the company's aircraft.

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Showing 3 of 20 comments
Who_Cares
Jul 19, 2013 2:48 AM CDT
Without criticque of everyone, why don't they just do what car companies are doing. Produce bigger cars so people could fit in, so they can do same thing with planes and choppers.
People_Suck
Jul 17, 2013 8:13 PM CDT
Why don't they just roll them to the hospital?
HMD-SMD-ITY
Jul 17, 2013 6:14 PM CDT
We've had three deadly air ambulance crashes just this year alone. I two of them happened just 1/2 mile from the takeoff point. Now one was intentional because the pilot wanted to impress a cute nurse and he said he could fly it like he did in Vietnam. Of course he was in diapers during that war. He swooped down like he said they did in Nam and he hit the ground. They are slowly getting better. Maybe we need to start ordering Sikorsky S-64 as our air/vac units.