Bystanders willing to use their emergency care training might have some high-tech assistance in the future with drones delivering automated external defibrillators (AEDs) right to the scene of the incident.
In an article published in the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers in Sweden conducted a study last year that combined lifesaving AEDs with small, lightweight drones to see if they could close the critical gap of time a rescuer has to save a victim of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
SCA strikes approximately 340,000 people in the U.S. every year and less than 5% survive. The chances of survival drop 10% for every minute that passes before cardiac rhythm is restored. An AED provides a controlled electrical shock that is sent through the heart to stop ventricular fibrillation, allowing the heart’s normal electrical activity to return and restore blood flow. Early defibrillation with an AED can improve survival rates, raising them as high as 60% in some estimates.
According to an Associated Press article on the AED drone study:
“Researchers…found [that] drones arrived at the scene of 18 cardiac arrests within about 5 minutes of launch. That was almost 17 minutes faster on average than ambulances - a big deal for a condition where minutes mean life or death.”
The researchers conducted their test in smaller towns outside of Stockholm, where EMS times are long due to lack of resources in these less-populated areas.
“The researchers used a small heart defibrillator weighing less than two pounds, featuring an electronic voice that gives instructions on how to use the device. It was attached to a small drone equipped with four small propeller-like rotors, a global positioning device and camera.
They launched the drone from a fire station within about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from homes where people had previous cardiac arrests.”
Although this trial run simply sent the AED to a residence where a tester awaited its arrival, the researchers plan next to deploy the technology to real emergency incident scenes.
Successful defibrillation is highly dependent on how quickly it occurs after SCA. After as few as 10 minutes in cardiac arrest, survival is unlikely. Perhaps someday drones will deliver more than packages from Amazon; they just might bring someone’s second chance at life.
For our readers who aren’t emergency care instructors: Would you know what to do if a drone brought an AED when you were witnessing a SCA? No matter how the AED arrives, these lifesaving devices are easy to use, and we have a network of ASHI and MEDIC First Aid instructors who would love to show you how. Click the link below to find a class near you.