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Home Defibrillators Fail to Boost Survival Rates
Date:4/1/2008

But they still may be valuable for heart attack patients, study suggests

TUESDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- Putting external defibrillators in the homes of people after they had a heart attack didn't improve their survival rate, a new study found.

But, the leader of the study still sees plenty of encouraging news in the research and is not necessarily ruling out the use of those heart-shocking devices in the home.

In a 37-month trial, half of 7,001 heart attack survivors had defibrillators put in their homes, while the other half got standard instructions to call for emergency help if a second heart attack occurred. But, the death rate for both groups was just about the same -- 222 of the people given defibrillators and 228 of those not given the devices, said study leader Dr. Gust H. Bardy, director of the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research.

The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting, in Chicago, and were published in the April 1 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The results were also expected to be published in April 24, 2008, print issue of the journal.

People in the study weren't considered suitable for implanted defibrillators. The devices they took home were identical to those now found in many public places for use in cardiac emergencies.

"It really amazed me that the survival prospects for this group were so promising," Bardy said. "A 2 percent-a-year death rate for 60-year-old patients, that surprises me."

Most of the deaths in the defibrillator group were due to non-cardiac causes, Bardy noted. "The event rate was so low," he said of cardiac deaths, "and the usage of the defibrillators is less than it should be. It's not that the devices are ineffective. When they were used, they did real well."

The defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to restart an arrested heartbeat,
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