Career focus: Mountain rescue medicine
Stephen Hearns, specialist registrar in emergency medicine and medic for a Scottish mountain rescue team, outlines what is required to be an “action hero”
Mountain rescue teams in Britain undertake over 800 emergency rescues a year.1 In Scotland these involve the care of 170 people with injuries and illnesses and over 30 deaths annually (preliminary data from my study of Scottish mountain rescue major trauma). The role of the 70 mountain rescue teams in Britain is to locate casualties, assess and treat their injuries, and evacuate them to hospital. Many teams enlist the help of a team doctor.2 These doctors are involved in training and emergency rescues.
A wide range of medical problems may befall mountaineers. Accidents result from slips, falls, and avalanches. They are often precipitated by navigational errors, lack of experience or equipment, and adverse weather conditions.
Accidents occurring in remote mountainous environments are complicated by many factors. Time to inform the emergency services may be prolonged, as may time for evacuation to hospital. The medical assessment and treatment of casualties is