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April 17, 1991

Inability to Assess Breath Sounds During Air Medical Transport by Helicopter

JAMA. 1991;265(15):1982-1984. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460150086029

This study assessed the capabilities of a traditional and an amplified stethoscope used by flight nurses to assess breath sounds during air medical transport in an MBB BO-105 helicopter. We developed a normal breath sound model using a prerecorded tape of breath sounds interspersed with segments without breath sounds; the recorder had been placed in the chest wall of a resuscitation training manikin. Flight nurses completed control listening sessions in a quiet environment and experimental sessions during flight using a traditional stethoscope for half of the sessions and an amplified stethoscope for the remaining half. In the quiet environment, flight nurses accurately reported the presence or absence of breath sounds in 110 (92%) of 120 trials. During helicopter flight, none of the flight nurses heard breath sounds during any of the recorded segments with either the traditional stethoscope or the amplified stethoscope. We conclude that flight nurses are unable to hear normal breath sounds using a traditional or amplified stethoscope during flight in a medically configured MBB BO-105 helicopter. Improved stethoscopes, innovative methods of listening, and reduction of aircraft noise are potential solutions to the problems of breath sound assessment during air medical transport.

(JAMA. 1991;265:1982-1984)