Medical Transport of Bariatric Patients

Bariatric patients are able to be transported by air ambulance as well as a few other methods of medical transport. Bariatric patients have multiple medical, logistical and psychological issues that make their transport especially challenging, and Global Air Ambulance has prepared for those challenges.  Global Air Ambulance can safely transport your bariatric patient throughout the world. We will do everything possible to safeguard your patient’s dignity and modesty while our highly specialized personnel, equipment, and protocols combine to safely and compassionately transport your patient to needed care.

Worldwide, over 300 million people are obese. 64 million Americans are considered obese and 15 million of those are morbidly obese (over 100 pounds overweight).  Two percent of patients requiring medical transport are morbidly obese, yet many medical transport companies are ill equipped to manage their safe transport.  Global Air Ambulance has bariatric teams that are exceptionally equipped to safely transport your bariatric patient to the care they need.

Weight and Girth Limitations of Fixed-Wing Air Ambulance for Bariatric Patients

Most air and ground ambulances are designed to transport average height patients with a maximum weight of 350 pounds.  If your patient is shorter than 5’3”, they may not fit in a standard ambulance even if they weigh less than 350 pounds.

Bariatric patients have weight and girth issues that are beyond the capabilities of most air and ground ambulances.  A majority of fixed-wing air ambulances, for instance, have a door opening of 27 inches.  Global Air Ambulance can accommodate patients with weights up to 700 pounds and widths of 53 inches on fixed-wing medical flights.  

As weight and girth increase, the cost of air ambulance also increases as more costly, specialized aircraft and equipment must be utilized for larger patients.  For most obese patients, a LearJet ambulance, outfitted with a cargo door, can transport them.  The LearJet has maximum bariatric patient limits of 36-inch widths and 350 pounds.  The LearJet ambulance has a cargo door width of 36 inches and a standard stretcher that can accommodate 350 pounds safely.  

If a patient is ventilated, weight and width limits are reduced to manage a safe transfer from ground ambulance to air ambulance without interfering with vent equipment.  Global Air Ambulance allows at least one family member to accompany bariatric patients.  However, vented bariatric patients can pose several challenges that may limit our ability to take additional passengers.  

If a bariatric patient exceeds LearJet cargo door and stretcher limits, more specialized aircraft must be used to manage the patient’s care.  The Pilatus has a cargo door of 53 inches that can accommodate larger bariatric patients.  However, the Pilatus has a smaller flying range than the LearJet and may not suitable for longer flights.  For international flights, the Falcon 50 is an optimal choice, but its weight limit is 450 lbs.  Beyond these limits, patients up to 700 pounds can be flown on the Beechcraft 1900.  

As bariatric patient weights and widths increase, the availability of aircraft and specialized crews decrease.  If you have a bariatric patient with specialized needs, it is critical that you call Global Air Ambulance at 800-948-1220 as soon as possible for imminent transports.

Bariatric Ground Ambulance Transport 

For transport to and from the bariatric air ambulances, Global Air Ambulance utilizes bariatric ground ambulances specifically designed to medically transport morbidly obese patients.  Bariatric ground ambulances have special features that aid ambulance personnel in safely transporting heavier patients.  Bariatric ambulances have heavy duty suspensions, air shocks, and wide wheelbases designed to transport patients up to 1,000 pounds.  Bariatric ambulances have wider door openings, and heavy-duty ramp systems with motorized winches to aid in loading and off-loading bariatric patients.  In addition, bariatric ambulances have wider medical boxes that give paramedics and nurses mobility to care for the bariatric patient during ground transport.

While Global Air Ambulance can medevac most obese patients by fixed-wing air ambulance, some supersized bariatric patients cannot be transferred by air under any circumstance.  For these patients, long distance bariatric ground ambulances are regularly and safely used.  Highly specialized bariatric ambulances and crews are in-demand.  If your patient needs long-distance bariatric ground transport, please call Global Air Ambulance at 800-948-1220 as soon as possible because pre-planning will be required to meet your schedule needs for a safe bariatric patient transfer.

Bariatric Medical Helicopter Transport

For critical patients, air transport significantly reduces the time for a bariatric patient get to a facility and receive urgently needed medical treatment.  However, some bariatric patients exceed the weight and  size capabilities of any fixed-wing ambulance.  In these cases, bariatric medical helicopters can be lifesaving as they can dramatically reduce the time for a patient to begin receiving a higher level of medical care, compared to a ground transport.

 In cases where patients cannot fit in a fixed wing air ambulance, they may fit in a bariatric medical helicopter.  Bariatric helicopters can fit patients that weigh up to 650 pounds and that widths up to 72 inches wide.  Bariatric helicopters can travel distances up to 360 miles without refueling.

Specialized Medical Needs of Air Ambulance Bariatric Patients

Bariatric patients bring special medical challenges.  They many times have co-morbidities of heart problems, Diabetes Mellitus, hypertension, and renal failure.  Bariatric patients may have airway difficulties due to macroglossia, or thick tongue, poor neck extension, compressed lungs, decreased lung capacity, and larger than average head sizes.  They may also have pressure sores and an inability to assist in any way in their transfer.  For these reasons and others, bariatric patients require bariatric trained medical teams, such as supplied by Global Air Ambulance, for their care during transport. 

Bariatric patients often require pre-oxygenation prior to transport to counteract the effects of excessive nitrogen release during transfers. In addition, bariatric patients sometimes have added stress of fitting into the tight spaces of small air ambulance interiors.  Global Air Ambulance is aware of these unique issues and pays extra attention to the medical as well as psychological needs of bariatric patients.  

Global Air Ambulance utilizes specialized bariatric medical equipment such as bariatric intubation equipment, blood pressure cuffs, catheters, and cervical collars.  We also use extra wide stretchers designed with wider frames, mattresses, and weight bearing capacity, with bariatric wheels, winches, push handles, and longer security straps as required for safe transport.  Sometimes, bariatric abdominal equalizing restraints are required to support the abdominal mass of the patient as well.

Logistical Needs of Flying Bariatric Patients by Air Ambulance

Global Air Ambulance manages all logistical aspects to safely transfer bariatric patients from bedside of the sending facility to the bedside of the receiving facility.  As an example, recognizing that the bariatric patient is transferred three times from one stretcher to another, twice by ground and once by air, we use the air ambulance stretcher to transfer the patient from bedside to bedside at all stages of the transfer.

Bariatric patients pose lifting challenges.  As a result, for patients weighing more than 300 pounds, Global Air Ambulance uses special lift ground assist crews at both airports to help the flight crew safely transfer the patient.  In addition, to avoid injury, specialized loading ramps are used, as well as bariatric lateral transfer, positioning devices, and reinforced lifting sheets.

Transport of Obese Patients by Commercial Medical Escorts

Global Air Ambulance transports some obese patients by medical escorts aboard commercial airlines in first class and business class seats.  For those patients whose medical conditions are safe for commercial airline transfers, medical escort costs are significantly lower than air ambulance.

However, obesity poses several logistical issues.  Patients must be able to sit in an airline aisle wheelchair and fit between rows of airline seats.  Also, patients that are not completely able to transfer without assistance may require the aid of two medical escorts instead of just one.  The patient’s weight must be low enough for two escorts to assist them in the event of a fall incident in the aisle of a commercial plane.  

The patient’s width and girth must also be able to fit comfortably within the dimensions of a first class or business class seat with the seat in front fully reclined.  First class and business class seats typically have a width of 34 inches.  In addition, the patient must be able to secure their seatbelt with the addition of a seat belt extender.

Special Needs of Bariatric Patients and COVID 19 During Medical Transport

Obese COVID-19 patients have required more intensive care unit treatment as obesity is associated with compromised pulmonary function and higher inflammatory cytokines.  As a result, COVID patients requiring transport to higher levels of care are more likely to be obese than not.

Most active COVID patients are required to be transported in isolation pods, yet severely obese patients are too large for isolation pods.  Therefore, special COVID protocols are required for active Covid, morbidly obese patients.  Call Global Air Ambulance today at 800-948-1220 to discuss your bariatric patient’s COVID requirements.

Because bariatric medical transports pose unique risks to both patients and medical crews involved in their transport, it is critical to choose experienced, specialty trained bariatric transport companies like Global Air Ambulance to safely transport your patient.  Using best practices and protocols to lift, transport and treat bariatric patients, Global Air Ambulance will safely deliver your patient to a higher level of care.  Call us at 800-948-1220 to get started.

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