Marking the first instance ever, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has delivered a vital organ for transplantation – a patient with kidney failure received the organ as a result of a collaboration between transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in the US, aviation and engineering experts at the UAS Test Site and researchers from non-profit organisation The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland.
“This major advance in human medicine and transplantation exemplifies two key components of our mission: innovation and collaboration,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice-President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, UMSOM. “Innovation is at the heart of our focus on accelerating the pace and scope of discovery, where research can rapidly transform medicine. At the same time, collaboration is the key to our success in providing discovery-based medicine – both in conducting research and in delivering the highest quality patient care.”
The drone was transferred across an urban landscape – which is particularly hazardous due to the many obstacles that can impede the airborne journey. Dr Joseph Scalea, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery at UMSOM, and also leader of the team that was first to test the drone system, noted that, ordinarily, transportation logistics are often the most complicated part of the organ transplant process, typically involving expensive chartered flights, or relying on the variability of commercial flight schedules, and occasionally resulting in an organ left on a plane, or delays that destroy the organ’s viability. This latest advancement promises speedier organ delivery, which will enhance safety and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Dr Scalea added: “As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, the Federal Aviation Administration, engineers, organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation.”
Following the successful transplant, the patient, Trina Glipsy, 44, has now been discharged from UMMC.