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The prehospital management of avalanche victims
  1. Daniel K Kornhall1,2,3,4,5 and
  2. Julie Martens-Nielsen6
  1. 1Anesthesia and Critical Care Research Group, UIT-The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine, Helgeland Hospital Trust, Sandnessjoen, Norway
  3. 3East Anglian Air Ambulance, Marshall Airfield, Cambridge, UK
  4. 4Department of Anaesthesiology, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsoe, Norway
  5. 5Svolvaer Alpine Rescue Group, Svolvaer, Norway
  6. 6Department of Anaesthesiology, Hospital of Southern Norway, Kristiansand, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Daniel K Kornhall, The Air Ambulance Division of Emergency Medical Services, University Hospital of North Norway, 9038 Tromsø Norway; danielkornhall{at}


Avalanche accidents are frequently lethal events with an overall mortality of 23%. Mortality increases dramatically to 50% in instances of complete burial. With modern day dense networks of ambulance services and rescue helicopters, health workers often become involved during the early stages of avalanche rescue. Historically, some of the most devastating avalanche accidents have involved military personnel. Armed forces are frequently deployed to mountain regions in order to train for mountain warfare or as part of ongoing conflicts. Furthermore, military units are frequently called to assist civilian organised rescue in avalanche rescue operations. It is therefore important that clinicians associated with units operating in mountain regions have an understanding of, the medical management of avalanche victims, and of the preceding rescue phase. The ensuing review of the available literature aims to describe the pathophysiology particular to avalanche victims and to outline a structured approach to the search, rescue and prehospital medical management.


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