Little is known about the epidemiology of emergency medical search and rescue incidents globally. The purpose of this study was to describe the epidemiology of emergency medical search and rescue incidents in the North Shore Mountains of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
This was a retrospective review and descriptive analysis of search and rescue incident reports created by North Shore Rescue over a 25 y period from 1995 to 2019, inclusive. Incident reports were screened for inclusion against a priori criteria defining a medical callout. The National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics (NACA) severity score was used as a method to grade medical acuity of included subjects.
We included 906 subjects. Their median age was 35 y (interquartile range, 24–53), and 65% of subjects were men. Forty-one percent (n=371) of subjects were classified as non-trauma and 54% (n=489) as trauma. The top 3 activities were hiking (53%), biking (10%), and snow sports (10%). Forty-nine percent of incidents were classified as having a NACA score of ≥3. For subjects with trauma, the top 3 body regions were lower limb (52%), head (18%), and torso (12%). For subjects with non-traumatic conditions, the top 3 causes were mental health crises (25%), exposure (25%), and cardiovascular incidents (11%).
Half of the incidents were serious enough to require medical assessment at a hospital (NACA score ≥3). Given this medical acuity, there is a need for evidence-based guidelines and core training competencies for mountain medical search and rescue. Standardized core data sets and outcomes are needed to monitor quality of care over time.
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Published online: January 28, 2023
Accepted: November 3, 2022
Received: July 14, 2022
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