Few studies have investigated the patient compartment temperatures during ambulance missions or its relation to admission hypothermia. Still hypothermia is a known risk factor for increased mortality and morbidity in both trauma and disease. This has special relevance to our sub-arctic region's pre-hospital services, and we prospectively studied the environmental temperature in the patient transport compartment in both ground and air ambulances.
We recorded cabin temperature during patient transport in two ground ambulances and one ambulance helicopter in the catchment area of the University Hospital of North Norway using automatic temperature loggers. The data were collected for one month in each of the four seasons. We calculated the sum of degrees Celsius below 18?min by minute to describe the patient exposure to unfavourably low cabin temperature, and present the data as box plots. The statistical differences between transport mode and season were analysed with ANCOVA.
The recorded cabin temperatures were higher during the summer than the other three seasons. However, we also found that helicopter transports were performed at lower cabin temperatures and with significantly more exposure to unfavourably low temperatures than the ground ambulance transports. Furthermore, the helicopter cabin reached the final temperature much slower than the ground ambulance cabins did or remained at a lower than comfortable temperature.
Helicopter cabin temperature during ambulance missions should be monitored closer, particularly for patients at risk for developing admission hypothermia.