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Drones carrying defibrillators could aid heart emergencies

14 Juin 2017

Death can occur within minutes, so treatment needs to be given quickly. The drone was equipped with a 763g AED that bystanders at the scene could easily use to try to revive a person in cardiac arrest.

In this age of drone technology, if Amazon could deliver you a book or package in real time, why not a lifesaving device?

Every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces someone's chance of survival by 10 per cent. Defibrillators are created to give spoken instructions so that anyone can use them, and many are available in public places.

The average time taken from an emergency call being received to the drone being dispatched was just 3 seconds, the researchers report in a letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). "That is why most public places in the United States, such as airports and stadiums, have AEDs, which bystanders can use by following the simple automated commands", Vinocur, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, said in an email. "Not only do greater distances have to be traversed to get to patients as well as to transport to hospitals, there sometimes might not be enough equipment and personnel to cover multiple calls at once", Vinocur said, adding that the drop in response time achieved with drones in this study "could be clinically significant". The drone consistently beat typical EMS response times, by nearly 17 minutes in half of the cases. The median reduction in response time was about 16 ½ minutes. Even though it could use Global Positioning System to fly on autopilot, a pilot was present at the landing locations and the dispatcher could take over the drone for descent if necessary.

Someday, emergency dispatchers might be able to respond to cardiac arrests by sending out drones with defibrillators that bystanders at the scene could use on cardiac arrest patients until EMS arrived. "Hopefully we will be up and running within a year or two", he says. "But we still believe that if we can deliver a defibrillator within 5 minutes, the proportion of people with shockable rhythms could be pretty high", Claesson says.

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He taught 400 of her classmates how to do CPR and use AEDs this year.

Are you as AED-capable as a fourth-grader? On average, the drone arrived in a little over five minutes (fastest time was 1:15 and longest was 11:51).

Kurz says future studies should go beyond analyzing response times and also examine patient survival rates.

An important next step is to test whether bystanders can, in fact, effectively use an AED delivered by a drone-"It has to be intuitive", Claesson said-and whether that will start raising survival rates for these inaccessible cases.

Drones carrying defibrillators could aid heart emergencies