Chattanooga's Erlanger Health System upgrades Life Force with new helicopter

The new aircraft is able to treat patients with more complex health problems

Patients with complex health problems require more sophisticated equipment and medical professionals to care for them, which is why Erlanger Health System is adding a new air ambulance to replace one of its six helicopters that serve the Chattanooga region.

"One thing that we saw very quickly with COVID is we really needed some high-tech capabilities to maintain those critically-ill patients," Robbie Tester, Life Force senior director, told the hospital board recently.

The new aircraft unveiled Tuesday is larger and able to transport patients who need ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation - a temporary support system for patients with severe respiratory or cardiac failure that works like an external lung by pumping and restoring oxygen to the blood.

It also features balloon pumps for patients who require cardiovascular support and a liquid oxygen system onboard to enable longer transports.