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Drones to the Rescue


by Chris Bate

Organ donation is a subject that divides opinion for a variety of different reasons, however, like all areas of medicine, this is ever developing with the goal to improve efficiencies and further meet the demands of the people who need it most.

On April 19th a test run was performed where a drone was used to deliver a kidney to a patient at the University of Maryland Medical Centre (USA), the total journey was about 3 miles. The drone was custom-built to ensure that the organ maintained in the best possible condition during the flight, it was also equipped with an onboard camera and tracker. Organs are only able to survive a few hours outside of the body so it’s crucial that they are delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible, with delays that can be caused by traffic and other external factors it's useful to have other options that could lead to greater success rates and reduce the number of wasted organs.

Last year in the US alone there were over 2,500 kidneys that had to be discarded due to degrading before they could be transplanted, to put this into context…in the UK there are approximately 3,000 kidney transplants per year, with over 5,000 still waiting!

We have all seen the disruption that drones can cause when in the wrong hands, the closure of Heathrow and Gatwick airports come to mind! However, there is clearly an opportunity here to take advantage of this technology for the betterment of peoples health and this isn’t the only instance of drones being used to aid people, for example, drones are being used (and trialed) to deliver defibrillators to patients suffering cardiac arrest. This is also extremely useful for individuals that are in isolated or in remote areas where it could possibly take emergency services too much time to reach them.

As of early next year all adults in England will be organ donors unless they have opted out, this is also known as “Max and Keira’s Law,” however this is certainly not a new concept as many countries have been doing it for years.


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