Drone delivers donor kidney to Baltimore hospital for transplant surgery
Updated May 03, 2019 09:41:18
A drone delivered a kidney to a Baltimore hospital, where doctors then successfully transplanted the organ into a patient.
- Transport and logistical issues are a major roadblock to completing more transplant surgeries
- Surgeon Joseph Scalea says technology like this could make up to 2,500 kidneys available per year
- The drone is also set up to monitor the organ’s health during the flight
It was the first live test of the kidney-carrying aircraft, designed by doctors and engineers at the University of Maryland to help speed up the transfer of organs.
The drone is a first of its kind, specially designed to not only transport, but protect its precious cargo.
“We have eight motors to provide redundancy in case we have some failures,” Matt Scassero, director of the university’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, said.
“There’s also a parachute-recovery system in case the entire aircraft fails, we can still get down safely and the organ will be safe.”
The test flight was a brief 4.8 kilometres and took just under 10 minutes, but Joseph Scalea, a University of Maryland Medical Centre transplant surgeon, said it represented the potential for many more lives to be saved.
Dr Scalea said transportation logistics were often the most complicated part of the organ transplant, needing to rely on either expensive chartered flights or variable commercial flight timetables, which could lead to delays which destroy an organ’s viability.
“If you called me and told me you had a marginal kidney that I know would be a potential benefit to my patient, but that it’s not going to get here for a long time, we may say, ‘You know what? that’s just too much risk’,” Dr Scalea said.
“But now, in a system where we’ve innovated the amount of time that can elapse between the recovery hospital and the implantation hospital, we may be able to accept that organ.
“So we think as many as 2,500 kidneys per year could be added to the pool.”
The drone also contains a specially designed organ-monitoring system, sending key measures like temperature directly to the smartphone of the medical staff.
“Even in the modern era, human organs are unmonitored during flight,” Dr Scalea said.
“I found this to be unacceptable. Real-time organ monitoring is mission-critical to this experience.”
The drone-delivered kidney was implanted into 44-year-old Baltimore resident Trina Glispy, who spent eight years on dialysis before undergoing the procedure.
“This whole thing is amazing. Years ago, this was not something that you would think about,” Ms Glispy said.
First posted May 03, 2019 09:14:47