Battlefield ambulance carries teleradiology capability

March 26, 2001

Survival on the battlefield often depends on treatment and stabilization within the first hour of injury. The U.S. Army's new high-tech battlefield ambulance -- the armored medical evacuation vehicle, or AMEV -- is designed to provide enhanced trauma

Survival on the battlefield often depends on treatment and stabilization within the first hour of injury. The U.S. Army's new high-tech battlefield ambulance - the armored medical evacuation vehicle, or AMEV - is designed to provide enhanced trauma care, life support, and improved medical treatment, including teleradiology.

"We will be able to bring medical consultation to the field with an almost real-time link from our theater assets to our physicians in the continental U.S.," said Col. Sandy Tiernan, director of combat and doctrine development at the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, TX. "We may be able to share x-rays or CT scans and get an earlier diagnosis and assure that the soldier can be treated properly more quickly."

The AMEV, which is actually a modified M7 Bradley fighting vehicle, can go anywhere a tank can go and at the same speed, giving Army medics the same mobility and survivability as the assault force.

To create an AMEV, designers remove the M7 turret, raise the roof, move fuel tanks to the exterior, and install extra armor plating. Medical requirements are met by incorporating air conditioning, an oxygen distribution system, litters for up to four casualties, seating for up to eight ambulatory patients, medical lighting, and state-of-the-art medical gear.

A sister vehicle, the armored medical treatment vehicle, or AMTV, is also able to advance alongside the infantry. It contains a real M.A.S.H. capability - a surgical suite on wheels (in this case, tank tracks) - that provides Army doctors the opportunity to perform surgery right in combat, without having to first evacuate the casualty.

"Medical technology is going to allow us to protect these soldiers," Tiernan said. "The challenge for us is to perform patient care in an operational environment."

The need for a new ambulance rose out of the dust of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when it was discovered that the combat casualty evacuation system was using obsolete technology from the 1950s. Budget constraints and military priorities that favor spending money on vehicles that carry weapons may prevent the widespread adoption of the AMEV.

Nevertheless, Tiernan said a prototype equipped with satellite links, long-range radios, and video teleconferencing software is scheduled to be deployed later this year at Fort Lewis, WA.