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Golden hour

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In emergency medicine the golden hour is the first sixty minutes after an accident or the onset of acute illness. The victim's chances of survival are greatest if he or she can be in the operating room within the Golden Hour.



This concept comes from US military wartime experience, particularly in the Vietnam War. In cases of severe trauma, especially internal bleeding, nothing can replace surgery. It is therefore necessary to transport victims as fast as possible to a trauma center.


Prehospital care

Prehospital care is limited to the minimum, i.e.

  • A.B.C (airway, breathing, circulation)
  • cover wounds
  • realign ("reduce") broken limbs
  • protect the spine.

Inserting an intravenous drip must be fast and not delay transportation.

Endotracheal intubation is the only act that may delay the transportation. This prehospital strategy is also called scoop and run, opposed to the stay and play that is more adapted to less severe cases (when there is no severe trauma, the trauma caused by the transportation itself is more important than the gain of time).

Hospital selection

The ambulance must transport the victim to the hospital with the facilities to treat the patient. This is not always the closest hospital, as the closest hospital may lack the facilities or may be overwelmed by other victims from the same incident (see also triage).

Limited examination

Third point, only limited examination in the emergency department. If there is no evidence for surgical intervention, only three radiographs should be performed: lungs, spine and pelvis.


The golden hour can be summarized by the 3R rule of Trunkey:

  • Right patient
  • Right place
  • Right time


MEDEVAC helicopters are often used to move victims to a trauma center within the Golden Hour.

See also

Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12