Drones could help dur­ing car­diac ar­rest

De­fib­ri­la­tors can be car­ried by ma­chines

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY LIND­SEY TANNER

CHICAGO | It sounds fu­tur­is­tic: drones car­ry­ing heart de­fib­ril­la­tors swoop­ing in to help by­standers re­vive peo­ple stricken by car­diac ar­rest.

Re­searchers tested the idea and found drones ar­rived at the scene of 18 car­diac ar­rests within about five 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.

Drone-de­liv­ered de­vices weren’t used on pa­tients in the pre­lim­i­nary study, but the results are “pretty re­mark­able” and proof that the idea is worth ex­plor­ing, said Dr. Clyde Yancy, a for­mer Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent who was not in­volved in the study.

Car­diac ar­rest is a lead­ing cause of death world­wide, killing more than 6 mil­lion peo­ple each year. Most hap­pen at home or in other non­med­i­cal set­tings and most pa­tients don’t sur­vive.

“Ninety per­cent of peo­ple who col­lapse out­side of a hos­pi­tal don’t make it. This is a cri­sis and it’s time we do some­thing dif­fer­ent to ad­dress it,” said Dr. Yancy, car­di­ol­ogy chief at North­west­ern Univer­sity’s med­i­cal school in Chicago.

The re­searchers reached the same con­clu­sion after an­a­lyz­ing car­diac ar­rest data in Swe­den, fo­cus­ing on towns near Stock­holm that don’t have enough emer­gency med­i­cal re­sources to serve sum­mer va­ca­tion­ers. The anal­y­sis found an emer­gency re­sponse time of al­most 30 min­utes and a sur­vival rate of zero, said lead au­thor An­dreas Claes­son, a re­searcher at the Cen­ter for Re­sus­ci­ta­tion Sci­ence at Karolin­ska In­sti­tute in Stock­holm.

To see if care could be im­proved, Mr. Claes­son’s team turned to drones.

Drones are in­creas­ingly be­ing tested or used in a va­ri­ety of set­tings, in­clud­ing to de­liver retail goods to con­sumers in re­mote ar­eas, search for lost hik­ers and help po­lice mon­i­tor traf­fic or crowds. Us­ing them to speed med­i­cal care seemed like a log­i­cal next step, Mr. Claes­son said.

The study was done in Oc­to­ber and was pub­lished Tues­day in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion.

More than 350,000 Amer­i­cans had a car­diac ar­rest in a non­med­i­cal set­ting last year, the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion says. The con­di­tion is of­ten con­fused with heart at­tacks but they’re dif­fer­ent.

Heart at­tacks oc­cur when a clot or other block­age stops blood flow to the heart. Car­diac ar­rest oc­curs when elec­tri­cal im­pulses con­trol­ling the heart’s rhyth­mic pump­ing ac­tion sud­denly mal­func­tion. The heart­beat be­comes very ir­reg­u­lar or stops, pre­vent­ing blood from reach­ing vi­tal or­gans. Death can oc­cur within min­utes with­out treat­ment to re­store a nor­mal heart­beat, ide­ally CPR and use of a de­fib­ril­la­tor.

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 pro­peller­like ro­tors, a global po­si­tion­ing de­vice and cam­era.

They launched the drone from a fire sta­tion within about six miles from homes where peo­ple had pre­vi­ous car­diac ar­rests.

In the study’s video footage sim­u­lat­ing a res­cue, a drone soars over res­i­den­tial rooftops and then lands gen­tly in a backyard. A man dashes out of the house, grabs the de­fib­ril­la­tor and car­ries it in­side.

There were no crashes or other mishaps dur­ing the study, Mr. Claes­son said. He plans a fol­low-up study to test drone-de­liv­ered de­fib­ril­la­tors for by­standers to use in real-life car­diac ar­rests.

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