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.