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Published: Wed, June 14, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

Drone vs. ambulance: Which has faster response times for cardiac arrests?

Drone vs. ambulance: Which has faster response times for cardiac arrests?

The drone was dispatched for out-of-sight flights in October 2016 to locations where OHCAs within a 6.2 mile radius from the fire station had occurred between 2006 and 2014. The median time from the call to the dispatch of an EMS ambulance was three minutes.

Led by Andreas Claesson, RN, PhD, with the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, the team sent a GPS-enabled drone to a specific location where a previous cardiac arrest incident had occurred. Drones aren't just good for getting your shopping in an instant - by carrying defibrillators they could prove to be life-saving if your heart stops beating.

Researchers tested using small drones to carry heart defibrillators to homes where people had cardiac arrests.

In recent years, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have become more common in public spaces such as movie theaters, shopping malls and restaurants. These devices typically have electrodes that attach to the chest with sticky pads and deliver shocks based on what a computer in the defibrillator determines the person needs.

In all cases the drone arrived faster than the emergency responder, with an average time saving of 16 minutes and 39 seconds, the researchers say. This shift might be especially helpful for improving survival odds in remote rural areas and resort communities that swell in population during the summer months, Claesson said by email. The drone was equipped with a global positioning system and a high-definition camera, and was integrated with an autopilot software system.

Eighteen times in a row during the simulation, drones arrived before the hypothetical emergency services. "Nonetheless, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centers and aviation administrators are needed", the authors write in their study. Now the medical world is exploring new ways to use drones, too.

Drones, for example, might not work well in bad weather and might have a limited flight range, Pons said by email. The average dispatch time for an ambulance responding to a real emergency was 22 minutes. "The outcomes of OHCA using the drone-delivered AED by bystanders versus resuscitation by EMS should be studied".

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States has a low survival rate of between 8% -10%, so reducing time to defibrillation is a critical factor for increasing survival.

They say the unmanned aircraft could deliver urgent help much more quickly than an ambulance which may need to negotiate long distances or congested roads. "We know that for each minute that CPR and defibrillation are delayed, survival from cardiac arrest decreases".

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