Can Use of a Drone Improve Response Times for Out-Of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests Compared to an Ambulance?

Can Use of a Drone Improve Response Times for Out-Of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests Compared to an Ambulance?

In a study involving simulated out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, drones carrying an automated external defibrillator arrived in less time than emergency medical services, with a reduction in response time of about 16 minutes, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) in the United States has low survival (8-10 percent), with reducing time to defibrillation as the most important factor for increasing survival. Drones can be activated by a dispatcher and sent to an address provided by a 911 caller and may carry an automated external defibrillator (AED) to the location so that a bystander can use it. Whether drones reduce response times in a real-life situation is unknown. Andreas Claesson, RN, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues compared the time to delivery of an AED using fully autonomous drones for simulated OHCAs vs emergency medical services (EMS).

A drone was developed and certified by the Swedish Transportation Agency and was equipped with an AED (weight, 1.7 lbs.) and placed at a fire station in a municipality north of Stockholm. The drone was equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) and a high-definition camera and integrated with an autopilot software system. It 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.

Eighteen remotely operated flights were performed with a median flight distance of about two miles. The median time from call to dispatch of EMS was 3:00 minutes. The median time from dispatch to drone launch was 3 seconds. The median time from dispatch to arrival of the drone was 5:21 minutes vs 22:00 minutes for EMS. The drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases with a median reduction in response time of 16:39 minutes.

“Saving 16 minutes is likely to be clinically important. Nonetheless, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centers and aviation administrators are needed,” the authors write. “The outcomes of OHCA using the drone-delivered AED by bystanders vs resuscitation by EMS should be studied.”

Limitations of the study include the small number of flights over short distances in good weather.

See abstract here.


Bob Trenkamp's picture
Bob Trenkamp wrote 43 weeks 6 days ago

A point to keep in mind

Response time varies between countries - and within a given country. In the USA, a lot of EMS organizations claim 10-12 minutes and actually can deliver 10-15 minutes.

Survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is frequently quoted at 10-11% by AHA.

Keeping in mind that in the USA, 70% of all arrests occur in a private residence. Two thirds of the time, the male in the household is the one that arrests. Now, pretend you are the female and you see your spouse collapse in cardiac arrest. You call 911, they ask you what your emergency is, you tell them, they ask if you know CPR, you say yes, they ask if you have an AED, they say they'll send one by drone. You get the victim on his back on a hard, flat surface and start chest compression. Five-to-ten minutes later you see some flashing lights through the bedroom window (it's midnight, btw). A few questions (a) how does the drone know where to land?, (b) when do you quit CPR to go out and retrieve the AED?, (c) how do you know how to operate the AED?, and (d) if EMS has arrived they won't get the drone's AED - they have their own.

I am NOT saying this can't get worked out - it can, but there are a lot of issues that need to be identified and resolved. (Like what? You live on the 27th floor of a high-rise apartment building, for example.

For this to be of benefit, the delivery speed has to be phenomenal, the recipient has to be trained, and there has to be an effective way of getting the drone's landing spot identified & getting the AED from their to the rescuer without interrupting CPR for more than a few (10) seconds.

This is going to take a lot of work, but it looks as if it's worth it!


Bob Trenkamp, President
Saving Lives In Chatham County

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