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Study: Waiting for an ambulance could kill you

(WPDE file image)

It's one of the simplest lessons we learn as kids: if you are in an emergency and need help, call 9-1-1.

But according to new research, in some situations calling for an ambulance increases your chances of dying.

The study, published by Johns Hopkins University and co-authored by Dr. Elliott Haut in September looked at mortality rates for adult victims of gunshot and stab wounds in urban areas around the country.

Haut and his team found that people who took an ambulance to the hospital died 11.2 percent of the time, whereas people who rode in a private vehicle, such as a friend's car, died 2.2 percent of the time.

After the researchers adjusted for the severity of the victim's wounds and other factors, they found people who rode in a private vehicle were 62 percent more likely to live.

"We thought there was going to be some small effect size, but it's a really really big effect size," Haut said.

Haut said the reason for the difference is because of the time it takes for EMS crews to get to you in an emergency. By having a friend drive you immediately

The study only focused on urban areas, places where everyone lives and works in a small area, usually within a few miles of a trauma center. Myrtle Beach was not included in the study, but Charleston and Columbia were.

Because most of Horry County, Georgetown County, and the Pee Dee aren't considered urban areas, and most people don't live near a trauma center, local officials say it's better to trust the people trained to save your life.

"If you're having an emergency, if you're having a medical emergency or a trama incident, you need to call 9-1-1," Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Nugent said.

Nugent explained that in most cases, a fire truck will get to you before an ambulance, with crews that can start life-saving techniques before the ambulance arrives.

Haut also cautioned people against avoiding the ambulance, saying the worst thing that could happen is someone being driven to a hospital that does not have a trauma center, or isn't equipped to properly care for them.

There's also the issue of arriving through the front doors into the hospital's lobby, versus the "back doors" where ER teams are waiting to receive you.

"I would recommend continuing to do exactly what we do now, because we have a spectacular EMS service around here and we should utilize them," Dr. Paul Richardson of Conway Medical Center said.

Haut said his dream is for 9-1-1 operators to be able to track your cell phone's location and send either an EMS crew or directions to the appropriate trauma center, depending on your situation.

"If that's the best thing for the patient, and we know the evidence shows us that's the best thing, shouldn't we be doing it?" Haut asked.

To read a summary of the study, click here.

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