Critical Care in the Air

A helicopter's EMS interior effectively has to turn the aircraft into a flying ambulance, able to match the medical capabilities of its road-going equivalent, while adhering to stringent weight and space restrictions.

Designers and suppliers of emergency medical service interiors are having to be increasingly creative as they undertake a balancing act in order to meet weight requirements while fulfilling the operators’ need for additional medical equipment on board EMS helicopters. The extensive use of lightweight materials, including aluminum and composites, along with clever design are the basis for getting the right mix. More and more medical devices and pieces of equipment are seen as vital and becoming standard on EMS helicopters, but they bring additional weight. “Standard devices are a defibrillator, a ventilator, IV pumps. It seems like these are standard for everybody now where that wasn’t necessarily the case a few years ago,” says Matthew Christenson, Vice President and Account Executive at Spectrum Aeromed. Fargo, North Dakota-based Spectrum specializes in EMS interior design and certification for both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft for customers worldwide. “Then operators are looking at whether they can have an ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygenation] unit, whether there is room for a balloon pump or, if they are doing infant transport, an infant incubator,” continues Christenson. “They are using all of these devices, monitors and ventilators, and somehow you have to accommodate them, secure them and power them to operate during flight.”

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