A landmark first-responder trial in Sweden has shown a drone can beat an ambulance to the scene of someone in cardiac arrest much faster than a conventional ambulance.
The only caveat is an ambulance carries paramedics, while a drone delivering a defibrillator is counting on having someone who knows CPR nearby.
But Sweden is looking first at time-critical medical assistance, as getting a defibrillator to restart a heart within five minutes of cardiac arrest can mean survival rates of up to 70 percent. Unfortunately, it is estimated that less than two percent of those stricken receive treatment during that timeline, and each minute of delay after a heart stops can reduce the chance of survival by ten percent.
To determine scenarios for better outcomes in these cases, Andreas Claesson and his colleagues at Sweden's Karolinska Institute collaborated with drone operator Everdrone to simultaneously dispatch drones and ambulances to potential victims of cardiac arrest. In 55 cases, the drones beat the ambulances to the scene by approximately 3 minutes and 14 seconds.
“Drones can deliver automated external defibrillators in daylight, non-daylight, summertime, and wintertime, and before emergency services in a majority of cases,” says Claesson. “We have shown the method of transportation is really effective. What happens after that is dependent on local conditions and CPR knowledge.”
The trial is looking to expand, with drones sending video footage of a scene to an ambulance dispatcher or paramedics to better assist with emergency consultation. Another option is using drones to rapidly deliver necessary drugs—such as epinephrine for anaphylactic shock—to someone in need.