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A stretcher is a device used in medical professions to carry casualties or an incapacitated person from one place to another.
This usually occurs if the person is unable to walk themselves, or if other requirements mean a "stair chair" (wheelchair), or similar could not be used.
A stretcher is usually used by two people, one at the head and the other at the feet. The casualty is placed on the stretcher, and can then be carried away. Many times the casualty is strapped down to avoid further injuring themselves.
The stretcher used in ambulances have wheels that makes the transportation easier, and have a fixing device inside the ambulance to secure the victim in case of an accident.
"Normalised" stretchers, or folding stretchers, are the simplest stretchers, made of two poles and two transversal hinged bars with a cloth stretched between the poles and four feet; the bars can be folded for the storing. They are now barely used by the modern emergency services, but still widely in use by organisations for which the storage room is an important factor, e.g. for first aid associations, or in French companies (a stretcher is mandatory).
Disaster stretchers are design for an easy storage and transport. They consist in a tubular aluminum structure with a washable cloth. They cannot be folded, but can be piled up.
As normalised or disaster stretcher have no wheel, they are usually carried by three or four pepople. When they must be carried by only two people, they tie straps to the poles, so the weight is supported by the shoulders and not by the hands.
Lifting and carrying devices
The casualty must be lifted (scoop) to be put on the stretcher. This lifting can be made manually, but it is also possible to use specific devices. These devices can be also used as stretchers, but only on short distances.
A long spine board can be used to scoop and carry the victime to the stretcher; in case a spine trauma is suspected, the victim is left on the board and tied to it, and the board is simply put on the stretcher. The spine and the overall immobilisation can also be performed by a vacuum mattress put on the stretcher.
When there is no suspicion of spine trauma, the vacuum mattress can be used as a stretcher (it has handles), which is interesting in narrow places when the stretcher cannot be kept horizontal; it is more secure and more comfortable than strapping the casualty to the strectcher.
The scoop stretcher is a device used specifically for the lifting.
When there is no trauma, the patient can be lifted with a "flexible" stretcher: it is a kind of tarpaulin with handles. he stetcher is folded, and the patient is rolled aside so the stretcher can be slided under him/her, then unfolded. This can be interesting for very heavy patients (there are six handles, so six people can help the lifting). When the casualty has to be transferred to another stretcher, it is possible to put the flexible stretcher on a normal stretcher to make the transfer easier. When the flexible stretcher is used alone, a sheet is usually put on it, to avoid the direct contact of the skin with plastic (e.g. for a sweating casualty).
Use of a stretcher
See the article Casualty movement.
Other types of stretchers
- The Nimier stretcher (brancard Nimier) : this stretcher was used by the French army during the First world war; the casualty was on his back, but in a "seated position", i.e. the thighs were perpendicular to the abdomen. Thus, the stretcher was shorter and could turn in the trenches (see a picture).
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