Drones could quicken AED delivery during heart attacks

Survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest remain between 8 and 10 percent, even though automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have become commonplace in public spaces. But three researchers in Sweden have a new way to hasten defibrillation for those in need: bring the devices to those in need with drones.

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. They then compared the response times with that of the emergency medical services.

In all 18 flights, the drone reached the destination more quickly than the ambulance, averaging a reduction in travel time of 16.5 minutes.

"This is a really neat, innovative method to combat a problem that we have been struggling with for decades," said Michael Kurz, MD, an emergency medicine professor and American Heart Association volunteer. "It's the same reason we have public access to defibrillation. Airports, casinos, large public venues have AEDs on the wall because presumably it would take a while for EMS to get there. This is, like, public-access defibrillation on steroids, where we just bring the defibrillator to you."

The researchers described their findings related to drone delivery of AEDs in a letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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