Medical evacuation, often termed Medevac or Medivac, is the timely and efficient movement and en route care provided by medical personnel to the wounded being evacuated from the battlefield or to injured patients being evacuated from the scene of an accident to receiving medical facilities using medically equipped ground vehicles (ambulances) or aircraft (air ambulances). Examples include civilian EMT vehicles, civilian aeromedical helicopter services, and Army air ambulances. This term also covers the transfer of patients from the battlefield to a treatment facility or from one treatment facility to another by medical personnel, such as from a Navy ship to a shore-based Naval hospital.
The term medevac is commonly applied to a motor vehicle, fixed-wing aircraft, or helicopter used as an ambulance (sometimes called an "air ambulance") provided with definitive medical care in route. This permits the rapid transport of seriously injured persons, particularly trauma patients, from the scene of the accident to the hospital. News accounts of such transportation often use the terms "airlifted" or "LifeFlighted", although medevac is a common term used by civilians as well. Most patients transported by medevac are taken to a specialized hospital known as a trauma center. Medevac can be misconstrued, as it may not clarify as to whether ground or air assets are being utilized, and therefore it is best to make it clear during planning and communication.
The technique has its roots in the establishment of the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service, which was established in 1928 to bring doctors to patients and patients to hospitals from the remote outback. Inevitably, the immense military potential of the practice was realized with the development of the helicopter.
The United States Army pioneered this lifesaving technique in Burma toward the end of World War II, using Sikorsky R-4 helicopters. They established semi-permanent field hospitals immediately behind the front lines, which allowed wounded soldiers to receive complete medical treatment after only a short helicopter flight. The technique was depicted in the MASH film and M*A*S*H television series, set in the Korean War less than a decade later, where Bell 47 helicopters were frequently used.
In modern American military terminology, medevac is often differentiated from casualty evacuation (casevac). In this context, medevac refers to the moving of a patient either from the point of injury, or a casualty collection point, to a medical facility or between the different levels of care with en route medical care whereas casevac has limited or no en route care and medical equipment.
Casevac is heavily utilized by the United States Marine Corps and manned by United States Navy Hospital Corpsman; its helicopters are combat aircraft and will, as needed, land in "hot zones" medevac helicopters would not, due to hostile fire. Accordingly, medevac aircraft are normally modified aircraft with lifesaving equipment on board as well as trained medical personnel as part of the aircrew. The aircraft are marked with the Red Cross/Crescent, and as such, covered by the Geneva Convention, thereby allowing the aircrew to only carry personal weapons. In the United States military, the medevac mission is performed primarily by the United States Army.
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