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Litter (rescue basket)

Litter (rescue basket)

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A litter is a stretcher
A stretcher is a medical device used to carry casualties or an incapacitated person from one place to another. It is a simple type of litter, and still called by that name in some cases....

 or basket designed to be used where there are obstacles to movement or other hazards: for example, in confined spaces, on slopes, in wooded terrain. Typically it is shaped to accommodate an adult in a face up position
Supine position
The supine position is a position of the body: lying down with the face up, as opposed to the prone position, which is face down, sometimes with the hands behind the head or neck. When used in surgical procedures, it allows access to the peritoneal, thoracic and pericardial regions; as well as the...

 and it is used in search and rescue
Search and rescue
Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

 operations. The person is strapped into the basket, making safe evacuation possible. The person generally is further protected by a back board and a cervical collar
Cervical collar
A cervical collar is an orthopedic medical device used to support a patient's neck and head. It is also used by emergency personnel for victims of traumatic head or neck injuries, and can be used to treat chronic medical conditions....

, so as to immobilize the person and prevent further injury.

A litter essentially is a stretcher with sides (or just a raised edge) and a removable head/torso cover. They are most notably remembered from Korea
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 and Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 images of United States Air Force Pararescue airmen or more recent Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

 video clips of helicopters rescuing injured people from isolated areas. Some will also recall the images from the TV show's Emergency! & M*A*S*H of fixed stretchers on either side of medical evacuation helicopters.

One widely used style of litter is the Stokes basket.


After the person is secured in the litter, the litter may be wheeled, carried by hand, mounted on an ATV, towed behind skis, snowmobile, or horse, lifted or lowered on high angle ropes, or hoisted by helicopter.

Litters are used to rescue victims in confined spaces, such as inside a ship or a cave network. Litters used in surface water rescue
Surface water rescue
Surface Water Rescue is defined as the rescue of a patient who is afloat on the surface of a body of water.Within Canada, any significant sized body of water, whether in mid-summer or winter, is considered cold water...

 are equipped with floats. Litters used in mountain rescue
Mountain rescue
Mountain rescue refers to search and rescue activities that occur in a mountainous environment, although the term is sometimes also used to apply to search and rescue in other wilderness environments. The difficult and remote nature of the terrain in which mountain rescue often occurs has resulted...

 usually are equipped with a cover or other material to protect the person from falling rocks. Litters used in search and rescue often can be disassembled for easier carrying. Some litters can be mounted on a wheel.

Stokes basket

A Stokes basket, also called a Stokes stretcher or Stokes litter, is a metal wire or plastic litter widely used in search and rescue
Search and rescue
Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

. Its key feature is that it can be disassembled for transport in backpacks or by pack horse.

Originally designed by Lowell Stokes, these baskets have been notorious for spinning under the downdraft from the rotating helicopter blades. Design improvements have included using multiple attach points, separate hold-down cables, and powered extension hoists to help save more lives. Recently the U.S. Navy has used the Stokes to transport patients through narrow corridors and doorways.


During the United States Civil War, horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

mounted litters were used to transport wounded soldiers from battlefields.


(*) Note: The “litter” in the picture is not really a litter, designed to protect the patient and to be moved by horses, but a carriage, used in Hippotherapy;
The patient, often multiple disabled, is positioned on a cloth over the back of the horses; the patient will feel all movements and warmth of the horses; this improves (amongst others) blood circulation and health in general.

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