Defibrillator drones to boost cardiac arrest survival

Defibrillator drones to boost cardiac arrest survival

The life-saving kit is carried by the drone CREDIT: ANDREAS CLAESSON

By Henry Bodkin 13 JUNE 2017 • 4:01PM

Defibrillator-carrying drones promise to dramatically boost survival rates for people suffering cardiac arrest after a new study found they could reach patients four times faster than an ambulance.

The fully automated eight-rota machines can fly, unimpeded by traffic at up to 50mph and deliver an easy-to-use heart-starting kit to critically ill patients.

The technology should enable more NHS emergency units to meet the eight-minute response target for the most urgent cases, which has slipped badly in recent years.

Research indicates that for every minute that passes between a person collapsing due to cardiac arrest and defibrillation, the chances of survival decrease by 10 per cent.

In the trial, run by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, drones responded to 18 simulated cardiac arrests within a six-mile radius of their base, beating the ambulance every time.

The machines were airborne within three seconds of being allocated to a new patient and took an average of five minutes and 21 seconds to reach their destination, compared with 22 minutes for the ambulance.

Good Samaritans can be instructed how to use the defibrillator down the phone CREDIT: ANDREAS CALESSON

There was an overall median reduction in response time of 16 minutes.

Developers hope that bystanders will be easily able to attach the defibrillator pads to the patient’s chest, while being talked through the procedure by paramedics on the phone or even through a microphone-speaker system installed on the drone.

Defibrillators have been increasingly installed in public places in recent years, however many members of the public do not think to look for one in an emergency.

Certified by the Swedish Transportation Agency, the drones used in the trial were equipped with a global positioning system, a high-definition camera and communicated via the 3G network.

"Saving 16 minutes is likely to be clinically important," the researchers wrote.

"None the less, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centers and aviation administrators are needed."

The proportion of the most critical cases responded to by NHS paramedics within eight minutes has gone down from just below 80 per cent in 2011 to 65 per cent last year, according to Health Foundation research.


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