Avalanche victims in Canada die more quickly

AVALANCHE victims buried by snow in Canada die much more quickly than those buried in Switzerland, according to a 25-year analysis of records.

Researchers from Canada, Italy and Switzerland studied 301 Canadian and 946 Swiss records of completely buried avalanche victims between 1980 and 2005 and found consistently lower survival chances in Canada. 

Trauma reduced survival primarily within the first 10 minutes of burial, and avalanches in areas with denser snow conditions were associated with earlier onset of asphyxia. 

Prompt extrication by other people was vital for survival. The window for a successful companion rescue had been described as the first 18 minutes; this study showed in Canada it was more like 10 minutes. 

CMAJ 2011, online 21 March