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Editorials |

Hearts in the Air: The Role of Aeromedical Transport

Joseph Varon; Robert E. Fromm, Jr; Paul Marik
Author and Funding Information

Houston, TX


Pittsburgh, PA


Dr. Varon is Professor, University of Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Fromm is Associate Professor, Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Marik is Professor, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Correspondence to: Joseph Varon, MD, FCCP, 2219 Dorrington, Houston, TX 77030; e-mail: Joseph.Varon@uth.tmc.edu



Chest. 2003;124(5):1636-1637. doi:10.1378/chest.124.5.1636
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Aeromedical transport (AMT) of seriously ill patients is no longer a rarity, but rather an everyday event. Indeed, as early as 1784, after the balloon flight demonstrations of the Montgolfier brothers, physicians began to consider the benefits their patients could gain from flight. Jean-Francois Picot theorized that not only could patients tolerate balloon flight, they would in fact benefit from purer air encountered at altitude.12 AMT using heavier-than-air machines was initiated in 1909, when Captain George Gosman built a plane specifically for this purpose.2 However, it was not easy to convince the government to approve further development of Gosman’s aircraft following its destruction in a crash, and it was never used to transport actual patients. In 1917, the French Dorand AR II was the first air ambulance that actually carried patients. Over the next several decades, the “ambulance airplane” industry grew, mainly in the military. World War II saw great increases in the use of AMT. It has been estimated that more than one million patients were airlifted by the United States from all theaters of this conflict, with an overall death rate of only 4 in 100,000.34

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