A first of its kind drone delivery of a kidney for transplant has been completed successfully. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) teamed up with the engineering school to make the event possible.
According to the UMMC this could make organ delivery safer and more affordable. The drone covered a distance of 2.8 miles to reach UMMC. The hospital said in a statement released Friday that the kidney delivered on April 19 was intended for a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore who spent eight years on dialysis before undergoing the transplant, the hospital added. The transplant was successful and she was discharged from the medical center shortly thereafter.
The drone, which researchers named the ‘Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Assurance Apparatus for Long-Distance Travel’ (HOMAL), was custom built with medical transport in mind so was able to hold the weight of the organ and monitor devices and features redundant power systems that ensures it remains airborne. It’s also equipped with sensors to monitor the condition of the organ it carries, relaying that information back to medical staff on the ground. The drone followed FAA regulations and. A brief YouTube video of the delivery was documented and published by UMMC.
Mohan Suntha, UMMC President, said in a statement, “Our Transplant Program cares for patients who come from our local community, the state and the nation. We have the skill, talent and knowledge to advance even the most complex transplant cases, often times not just improving but saving lives.”
Joseph Scalea, project lead and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant at UMMC, and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) said in a statement,”As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation.”
Organ deliveries are extremely time-sensitive and unmanned ideal rapid transporters of organs, blood supplies, and other medical necessities. Researchers tested out the drone by delivering items such as saline, blood tubes, and a healthy but non-viable human kidney before the delivery of a viable kidney. Scalea added, “This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation.”
Fox News reported the recipient’s statement saying, “This whole thing is amazing! Years ago, this was not something that you would think about.”
Scalea said, “I think we can help a lot of people this way. It might take a long time, but it’s a first step.”
Hailing it as the first voyage of its kind has the potential to revolutionize the organ transplant process, Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the medical school said, “This will have a direct impact on improving patient outcomes where time is critical.”
The new technology has the potential to make organ deliveries for transplant cheaper, faster and more reliable. The University of Maryland is working with three organ procurement organizations across the country to slowly begin implementing drone use.
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