A drone in Maryland has made history after it became the first unmanned aircraft to deliver a donor kidney to surgeons, who successfully transplanted the organ in a patient with kidney failure.
Transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland’s school of medicine and its medical centre teamed up with aviation and engineering experts to fly the organ to the 44-year-old patient, said the university last week.
“The whole thing is amazing,” said patient Trina Glipsy, who was discharged from the Baltimore medical centre after the transplant. “Years ago, this is not something that you would think about.”
Using a drone to deliver organs can be a safer and speedier way to deliver organs than transporting them using a paramedic vehicle, says the head of the Canadian Donation and Transplantation Research Program.
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“It’s quite an incredible and imaginative solution to a logistical problem,” said David Hartell, the organization’s executive director, adding drones are cost-effective.
He says transporting organs on the ground can be risky when travelling during peak traffic times like rush hour.
“The clock is ticking,” he said. “With organs kept on ice, every minute makes a difference.”
But, he highlighted that using drones may be a “quick fix” to this problem, not a long-term strategy for delivering organs. Technology like ex vivo perfusion increases the quality of the organ before transplantation — these machines have been put into ambulances to transfer organs, but it is not likely that a drone can hold this technology.
“You’re not going to have a drone that will be big enough to fly a machine across the city.”