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Drones may soon be used for organ transport

Ramzauva Chhakchhuak, Chennai, Sep 17, 2015, dhns 0:35 IST
Image for representation
A patient in a hospital in one corner of the city is in an urgent need of a heart transplant and within a matter of a few minutes, a donor's heart is delivered with the help of a drone.

Sounds a bit far-fetched? Well, Dr K R Balakrishnan, Director, Cardiac Sciences at the Fortis Malar Hospital in Chennai believes that drones could be used for speedy transportation of organs in a few years from now.

He has already conducted two trials using his technology albeit only with a dummy organ. “The trials have been done near the coastline between Marina Beach and Mahabalipuram in the city,” said Dr Balakrishnan while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a programme to celebrate 50 Successful Heart Transplants of the hospital here on Wednesday.

When asked when such innovation can be a reality, he said: “We are working on these ideas and have involved a few engineers from the city itself. It involves a lot of things. A feasibility study needs to be done, the map coordinates of each hospital needs to be looked at.”

Presently, the concept of a 'green corridor' for speedy transportation of an organ is being widely used. However, this can be used only so much.

“Imagine using a green corridor four times in a day in cities like Mumbai. It is simply not possible,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

Explaining the need for such out of the box solutions to the challenges involved with heart transplants, Dr Balakrishna said: “Despite increased awareness about heart transplants a distressing amount of the organ (heart) is wasted and this issue needs to be addressed urgently.”

After the heart is taken out of a donor it needs to be transplanted into a patient within a little over four hours according to Dr Suresh Rao, Head of Department, Cardiac Critical Care and Cardiac Anesthesia, Fortis Malar Hospital.

This is the reason why alternatives such an organ care system that will prolong the life of the organ is being looked at.

“Such a device keeps on pumping oxygenated blood into the heart and the organ can even live for around 12 hours. However, the problem with such devices is the huge cost involved. The device itself costs Rs 1 crore and its disposable components around 35 lakhs,” he said.

Air ambulances
Dr Balakrishnan said he also spoke to the Union Health Secretary in his personal capacity about air ambulances.

"This is a highly unorganised sector. I have had some horrendous experiences in an air ambulance. There are no plug points and some come to life only when an aircraft is started,” he said.

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