Air Evacuation May Cause Further Damage

2015-1202 Militatry Helicopter Air Evacuation

Excerpt of Article on Medical Express

Over the past 15 years, more than 330,000 U.S. soldiers have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is one of the leading causes of death and disability connected to the country’s recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of these patients were evacuated by air from these countries to Europe and the U.S. for further treatment. In general, these patients were flown quickly to hospitals outside the battle zone, where more extensive treatment was available.

But now a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine has found evidence that such air evacuations may pose a significant added risk, potentially causing more damage to already injured brains. The study is the first to suggest that air evacuation may be hazardous for TBI patients. The study was published today in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

About a quarter of all injured soldiers evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered head injuries

My Opinion

Although the study shows an air evacuation may cause further damage, my guess is there is no benefit to keeping a brain-injured soldier is the battle zone where proper treatment and therapy cannot be provided. The benefits of prompt treatment may significantly outweigh the potential detriments of an air evacuation. I cannot imagine a wounded vet would choose a lengthy, timely, and rough land evacuation rather than a prompt and painless air evacuation. Furthermore, land transportation may not be viable in a hostile environment.

Click here to read another Beyond Adversity post.


Thank you to the researchers from University of Maryland, School of Medicine for conducting the study; Journal of Neurotrauma for publishing the study, Medical Express for committing its resources to an article about the study; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible to include the picture and text in this post.



  1. Interesting post, Scott. While I agree with your common-sense “guess” that evacuating brain-injured soldiers by air is preferable to a land evacuation, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t head protection/stabilization measures that might be overlooked in the haste to get the wounded soldier to safety.

    1. Howard, that is a good question. The fact is there may be some opportunities to stabilize a brain injured soldier or civilian, but stabilization is not a thorough diagnosis, analysis of options, or treatment. If time is important, and evacuation by land is not a viable option (as it might be after a traffic accident), the only realistic option is evacuation by air. As always, I appreciate your questions and insightful comments. ~ Scott

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *