European Air Ambulance has the capability to transport overweight and even obese patients – those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30 – subject to medical approval.
Aircraft configurations in EAA’s Learjet 45 air ambulances means that
patients have more space and allow for the comfortable transportation of
patients weighing up to 170kg.
One of the main problems with transporting overweight patients has been
the challenge of loading them into the aircraft. The Learjet 45 air
ambulances allows for the diagonal loading of patients with a maximum
should-hip diameter of 73 cm (29 inches).
Once on board, patients who are overweight may prefer to sit upright
as this allows for easier breathing - many obese patients have increased
metabolic basal rates, which results in higher oxygen consumption and
thus heavy breathing.
Many commercial airliners have placed limitations on obese passengers,
who are often asked to purchase an extra seat – maybe at a discounted
price – to guarantee being allowed to fly. So air ambulance
transportation for an injured or sick overweight patient is a logical
option for insurers.
Even so, air ambulance providers require reliable information
on the patient’s condition and precise measurements of weight and
diameter before accepting a transport. Indeed, this information needs to
be transmitted to all parties so that ambulances and crew transporting
chain the patient between hospitals and the aircraft are also aware of
the challenge they face.
EAA is further investing in this service with new specialist equipment
suitable for air ambulances such as armrest extensions providing up to
63cm of width, suitably sized continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
masks, and ultrasound for assisting with venous access, non-standard
blood pressure cuffs, fingertip pulseoxymeters and splints to help treat
and analyse overweight patients.