Study: Air Evacuation Could Worsen TBI

An Air Force-funded study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that immediately evacuating patients by air to hospitals outside of the battle zone could cause “more damage to already injured brains,” according to a Nov. 30 summary of the study. “This research shows that exposure to reduced barometric pressure, as occurs on military planes used for evacuation, substantially worsens neurological function and increases brain cell loss after experimental [traumatic brain injury]—even when levels are kept in the normal range,” said lead researcher Alan Faden, a professor in trauma at Maryland. The study, which was published Monday in the Journal of Neurotrauma, “suggests that we need to carefully re-evaluate the cost-benefit of air transport in the first days after injury.” Faden and his colleagues believe that exposure to lowered air pressure, known as hypobaria, increases “persistent brain inflammation after injury.” They are currently testing treatments that could reduce the risk of air evacuation. “Early results are promising,” states the release. (Read the full study; Caution, large-sized file.)