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Review article: Primary aeromedical retrievals in Australia: An interrogation and search for context.

  • King, Jemma C1
  • Franklin, Richard C1, 2
  • Robertson, Anita1, 3
  • Aitken, Peter J1, 4
  • Elcock, Mark S1, 4
  • Gibbs, Clinton5, 6, 7
  • Lawton, Luke6, 7
  • Mazur, Stefan M1, 7, 8, 9
  • Edwards, Kristin H1
  • Leggat, Peter A1, 2, 10
  • 1 Discipline of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 2 World Safety Organization Collaborating Centre for Disaster Health and Emergency Response, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 3 Royal Flying Doctor Service, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 4 Aeromedical Retrieval and Disaster Management Branch, Prevention Division, Department of Health, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 5 Retrieval Services Queensland, Aeromedical Retrieval and Disaster Management Branch, Prevention Division, Department of Health, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 6 College of Medicine and Dentistry, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 7 Department of Emergency Medicine, The Townsville Hospital, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 8 SAAS MedSTAR Emergency Medical Retrieval Service, SA Ambulance Service, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 9 Emergency Department, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 10 School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. , (Australia)
Published Article
Emergency medicine Australasia : EMA
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2019
DOI: 10.1111/1742-6723.13405
PMID: 31729193


Primary aeromedical retrievals are a direct scene response to patients with a critical injury or illness using a medically equipped aircraft. They are often high-acuity taskings. In Australia, information on primary retrieval taskings is housed by service providers, of which there are many across the country. This exploratory literature review aims to explore the contemporary peer-reviewed literature on primary aeromedical retrievals in Australia. The focus is on adult primary aeromedical retrievals undertaken in Australia and clinical tools used in this pre-hospital setting. Included articles were reviewed for research theme (clinical and equipment, systems and/or outcomes), data coverage and appraisal of the evidence. Of the 37 articles included, majority explored helicopter retrievals (n = 32), retrieval systems (n = 21), compared outcomes within a service (n = 10) and explored retrievals in the state of New South Wales (n = 19). Major topics of focus included retrieval of trauma patients and airway management. Overall, the publications had a lower strength of evidence because of the preponderance of cross-sectional and case-study methodology. This review provides some preliminary but piecemeal insight into primary retrievals in Australia through a localised systems lens. However, there are several areas for research action and service outcome improvements suggested, all of which would be facilitated through the creation of a national pre-hospital and retrieval registry. The creation of a registry would enable consideration of the frequency and context of retrievals, comparison across services, more sophisticated data interrogation. Most importantly, it can lead to service and pre-hospital and retrieval system strengthening. © 2019 Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

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