Safety ropes and harnesses may stop a person's fall, but can cause their own problems.

Situations when a person may be suspended:

(1) wilderness or sports activity

(2) helicopter rescue

(3) occupational fall arrest

(4) parachuting


Risk factors for problems if suspended:

(1) ill-fitting harness

(2) delayed rescue beyond 30 minutes, sometimes sooner

(3) significant comorbid disease

(4) impaired respiratory movements due to a chest harness

(5) immobility

(6) inability to assume some degree of a horizontal position


A delayed rescue can occur:

(1) if the person is difficult to reach

(2) if there is no plan on how to reach the person


Causes of problems:

(1) sudden deceleration

(2) striking something during fall

(3) blood pooling in the legs, pelvis and abdomen when vertical and immobile with reduced perfusion of heart and brain

(4) inclement weather


Placing a person in the horizontal position after rescue does not increase the risk of sudden death.

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