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Revolutionizing Cardiac Arrest Response: Karolinska Institutet's Drone-Defibrillator Study

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In a groundbreaking study, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have opened a new chapter in emergency medical response by evaluating the use of drones equipped with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in cases of suspected cardiac arrest. This innovative approach, published in The Lancet Digital Health, demonstrates how technology can significantly enhance life-saving measures.

The study, led by Andreas Claesson, associate professor at the Center for Cardiac Arrest Research, and conducted with Sofia Schierbeck, a PhD student, shows that in over half of the cases, drones arrived at the scene an average of three minutes before the ambulance. This advancement is not just about speed; it's about increasing the chances of survival in sudden cardiac arrest situations.

In Sweden, where approximately 6,000 people suffer sudden cardiac arrests yearly, only a tenth survive. This low survival rate is often due to the unavailability of AEDs in homes, where most cardiac arrests occur. Recognizing this gap, Karolinska Institutet, in collaboration with Region Västra Götaland, SOS Alarm, and Everdrone, initiated a project in 2020 to test the feasibility of sending out a drone with an AED simultaneously as an ambulance is alerted.

The project, covering around 200,000 people in western Sweden, proved not only feasible and safe but also effective across different conditions - throughout the year, in both daylight and darkness. The drones were dispatched in 55 cases of suspected cardiac arrest, arriving before the ambulance in 67 percent of these cases, with a median lead of over three minutes.

In 18 actual cardiac arrest cases, the on-site caller managed to use the AED in six instances, with the device recommending a shock in two cases. Impressively, this quick response led to the survival of one patient.

Concluding Insights:

This study by Karolinska Institutet marks a significant milestone in emergency medical care. By integrating drones into cardiac arrest response, the time to defibrillation is notably reduced, enhancing the chances of survival. This innovative approach, supported by the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, showcases the potential of technology in transforming healthcare delivery and saving lives.

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