Objective.—To study the influence of current trends in alpine sports on the frequency and types of injuries handled by a helicopter-based emergency medical system (HEMS) in a wilderness mountain region.
Methods.—A retrospective review of medical reports at a single emergency helicopter port (Christophorus-1 air rescue) in Innsbruck, Austria, was conducted for comparison between two 3-year periods (1998–2000 and 2001–2003).
Results.—Comparing the two 3-year periods, the proportion of leisure-time injuries leading to HEMS activation increased, whereas the frequency of life-threatening injuries significantly declined (P = .001). There was significant increase in injuries during mountain hiking and rock climbing (P = .002), during swimming (P = .013), and in avalanches (P = .019). Most injuries (70.1%) were recorded for skiers, and 68.3% involved tourists. During the investigation period, the high National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics scores showed a decreasing trend, whereas Glasgow Coma Scale scores and low National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics scores tended to increase (P = .048).
Conclusions.—For the HEMS in this study, there has been an increasing number of calls for help from persons involved in outdoor leisure activities. As the number of life-threatening injuries declines, HEMSs more frequently serve as means of rescue rather than as providers of emergency treatment.