Drones carrying defibrillators could aid heart emergencies

Hollenberg expects that defibrillator-carrying drones could begin operating in Sweden in one or two years, although he noted there is work to be done before then.

Dr. David Friedman, chief of heart failure services at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital in Valley Stream, New York, told CBS News, "It's an interesting, novel approach to bringing AED to cardiac arrest victims in a relatively short time".

"Each minute that passes after a sudden cardiac arrest decreases the chance of survival by approximately 10 percent", explained lead investigator Andreas Claesson. The analysis found an emergency response time of nearly 30 minutes and a survival rate of zero, said lead author Andreas Claesson, a researcher at the Center for Resuscitation Science at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

And that, Claesson said, could "potentially save lives through earlier defibrillation as carried out by bystanders onsite".

Eighteen times in a row during the simulation, drones arrived before the hypothetical emergency services. These machines electrically shock the heart in the hope of restoring a normal beating rhythm.

London, as well as Stockholm and other cities, have trialed mobile apps that alert CPR-trained people if someone is having a cardiac arrest nearby.

One of his concerns: Sending an AED via drone means that there won't necessarily be a medical professional on site.

To see if care could be improved, Claesson's team turned to drones.

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute noted that AEDs are specially created to be portable and usable by untrained bystanders. Airports, casinos, large public venues have AEDs on the wall because presumably it would take a while for EMS to get there.

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Still, they're not always in reach.

More than 350,000 Americans had a cardiac arrest in a nonmedical setting past year, the American Heart Association says.

A drone was faster at getting to a person's house than an ambulance, according to test runs conducted by Swedish researchers. The devices were fully equipped with an AED, GPS, autopilot software, and a high-definition camera. Currently, drones are required to be operated within sight. The locations were within a roughly 6-mile radius of the fire station.

The drone delivered the AED in just over 5 minutes.

Additionally, the median time from dispatch to arrival of the drone was 5 minutes, 21 seconds, compared to 22 minutes for the ambulance. Death can occur within minutes, so treatment needs to be given quickly. The median time from call to dispatch of EMS was 3:00 minutes. The idea is that an on-site bystander will administer the shocks after the drone lands.

Commenting for TCTMD, emergency physician Leigh Vinocur, MD (MedStar Health, Baltimore, MD), called the preliminary study intriguing.

She pointed out that the current investigation is "very small", and didn't account for real-world variables that could affect drone delivery, such as bad weather.

"They're fourth graders, so there's a certain amount of corralling that has to occur, but yeah, they do great", Kurz says. NHS is also exploring the possibility of using drones to deliver blood and organs for transplants.

There's more on cardiac arrest at the U.S.

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