Overweight Patients Impact LifeFlight Medical Flights - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Overweight Patients Impact LifeFlight Medical Flights

Posted: Updated:

by Chris Conte

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As the obesity epidemic in Tennessee continues to get worse, there is a growing problem first responders have to deal with. It has to do with a patient's weight.

Officials with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center's LifeFlight program said their medical helicopters have weight limits. If patients are too overweight, some choppers can't even get off the ground.

The problem is worse on hot days like Wednesday, with temperatures in the mid-90s. In hot temperatures there are additional restrictions on how much extra weight choppers can carry.

It takes more power for the helicopter's blades to cut through the air.

Some of Vanderbilt's first responders said overweight patients effect how they're able to help.

The main Eurocopter 135 helicopter they use has two powerful engines and doesn't have any restrictions on a patient's weight. However, if someone is too wide to fit into the safety harnesses first responders have to send people by ambulance instead.

The back of LifeFlight's special medical helicopters has been designed to fit two stretchers. If there are two overweight patients, crews have had to call in two separate helicopters.

"If they tell us ahead of time then what we'll wind up doing is calling and launching a second aircraft to take that person," said Keith Evans, chief flight nurse of Vanderbilt's LifeFlight program.

Evans said a patient's weight can affect their emergency medical care. He said knowing a patient's weight can help them be more prepared.

"As our population gets larger we were very fortunate to get larger air craft that can carry larger patients. We still need to know what the patient's weight is so we can burn off enough fuel," said Evans.

In a study conducted in 2011 by the Journal of Academic Emergency Medicine, they found patients transported by a medical helicopter were a third less likely to die than someone transported by ambulance.

"There has been the rare occasion where we're not able to get the straps around the patient just because of their girth. In that instance we wound up taking them by ground transport," said Evans.

Officials said Vanderbilt's LifeFlight fleet includes a small plane for longer transports that can carry patients who weigh more than 350 pounds.

Evans said they have around 150 patients a year that weigh more than 300 pounds. The largest patient LifeFlight ever transported was 715 pounds.

Email: cconte@newschannel5.com
Facebook: Facebook.com/NC5ChrisConte
Twitter: Twitter.com/ChrisConte

Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.