Development and internal validation of an algorithm for estimating mortality in patients encountered by physician-staffed helicopter emergency medical services

Emil Reitala, Mitja Lääperi, Markus B. Skrifvars, Tom Silfvast, Hanna Vihonen, Pamela Toivonen, Miretta Tommila, Lasse Raatiniemi, Jouni Nurmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: Severity of illness scoring systems are used in intensive care units to enable the calculation of adjusted outcomes for audit and benchmarking purposes. Similar tools are lacking for pre-hospital emergency medicine. Therefore, using a national helicopter emergency medical services database, we developed and internally validated a mortality prediction algorithm. Methods: We conducted a multicentre retrospective observational register-based cohort study based on the patients treated by five physician-staffed Finnish helicopter emergency medical service units between 2012 and 2019. Only patients aged 16 and over treated by physician-staffed units were included. We analysed the relationship between 30-day mortality and physiological, patient-related and circumstantial variables. The data were imputed using multiple imputations employing chained equations. We used multivariate logistic regression to estimate the variable effects and performed derivation of multiple multivariable models with different combinations of variables. The models were combined into an algorithm to allow a risk estimation tool that accounts for missing variables. Internal validation was assessed by calculating the optimism of each performance estimate using the von Hippel method with four imputed sets. Results: After exclusions, 30 186 patients were included in the analysis. 8611 (29%) patients died within the first 30 days after the incident. Eleven predictor variables (systolic blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, Glasgow Coma Scale, sex, age, emergency medical services vehicle type [helicopter vs ground unit], whether the mission was located in a medical facility or nursing home, cardiac rhythm [asystole, pulseless electrical activity, ventricular fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia vs others], time from emergency call to physician arrival and patient category) were included. Adjusted for optimism after internal validation, the algorithm had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.921 (95% CI 0.918 to 0.924), Brier score of 0.097, calibration intercept of 0.000 (95% CI -0.040 to 0.040) and slope of 1.000 (95% CI 0.977 to 1.023). Conclusions: Based on 11 demographic, mission-specific, and physiologic variables, we developed and internally validated a novel severity of illness algorithm for use with patients encountered by physician-staffed helicopter emergency medical services, which may help in future quality improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Fields of Science

  • Air ambulances
  • Benchmarking
  • Critical care
  • Emergency medical services
  • Mortality
  • Pre-hospital
  • Risk prediction model
  • 3126 Surgery, anesthesiology, intensive care, radiology

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