Circadian variation in the time of request for helicopter transport of cardiac patients

Robert E. Fromm, Robert L. Levine, Paul E. Pepe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Study objectives: The literature has demonstrated circadian rhythms in the occurrence of nonfatal myocardial infarction, ischemia, and sudden death. We hypothesized that requests for helicopter transport of acutely ill cardiac patients followed a similar circadian pattern and differed significantly from requests for helicopter transport of other categories of patients. Design: Prospective study of requests for helicopter transport of 1,128 consecutive air medically transported patients over a 24-month period. Setting: One tertiary-care teaching hospital. Measurements and main results: The periodic structure of the time distribution of cardiac requests for helicopter transport was examined with a two-harmonic regression analysis using a 24-hour period of oscillation. Seven hundred eighty-seven cardiac and 315 noncardiac patients could be evaluated. The times of requests for helicopter transport were tabulated into hourly intervals. Cardiac-related requests for helicopter transport were significantly different from non-cardiac-related requests for helicopter transports (P < .009 by Wilcoxon rank sum test, P < .032 by Kolmogorov-Smirnov test). The regression model for cardiac requests for helicopter transport was also significant (P < .0001, R2 = .81) with increasing requests for helicopter transport from 6:00 am until 12: 00 noon. Conclusion: The time distribution of requests for helicopter transport for cardiac patients demonstrates a striking circadian variation not observed in noncardiac patients. This observation strengthens mechanistic inferences from studies of circadian variation and suggests a "morning-loaded" staffing pattern for air medical services predominantly transporting cardiac patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1196-1199
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1992



  • helicopter transport, circadian variation
  • myocardial infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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