For patients experiencing cardiac arrest, having quick access to defibrillation is crucial for survival. However, due to access limitations, many patients suffer due to delayed defibrillation.
Previously, the power of crowd-sourcing first-aid CPR skills in the community to provide care to patients with cardiac arrest in non-hospital settings has been well-demonstrated. In a recent study by Claesson A et al, the concept of using drones to deliver automated external defibrillators (AEDs) was put to the test at locations where previous, real cases occurred within a 10-km radius of the fire station in Stockholm.
The time needed for drones to fly AEDs to patients experiencing cardiac arrest outside of hospital settings was compared with that of conventional emergency medical services (EMS). Based on 18 cases within a 72-hour period, the median dispatch time for EMS was 3 minutes and the median time from dispatch to arrival with EMS was 22 minutes. In comparison, dispatch and arrival times with drones was much quicker, at a median of 3 seconds and 5:21 minutes, respectively (95% CI 13:48–20:12 minutes compared with EMS; P<0.001).
A difference of 16 minutes in defibrillation delivery is quite substantial. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines 2000, every minute that passes between collapse and defibrillation is associated with a 7–10% decrease in survival rates.
Drone delivery of AEDs for emergency situations seem to be a quick and effective approach, especially for difficult to reach areas. Of course, this is assuming that the patient is accompanied by someone who is capable of following the instructions on the AED to deliver care to the patient, but this is a fairly safe assumption as the AED is designed to provide simple instructions that anyone should be able to follow. Nevertheless, the rescue rate in light of improved care delivery will have to be evaluated, in detail, in future studies.