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Widespread Use of Defibrillators in Public Places Saves Lives: Study
Date:1/26/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The odds of surviving cardiac arrest are greater if it is caused by a "shockable" arrhythmia and if bystanders can give CPR and a shock from a nearby automated external defibrillator (AED), a new study finds.

That's why one is more likely to survive if a cardiac arrest occurs in a busy public place, where there are people to witness and respond to the emergency and AEDs are available, the researchers noted.

"Patients who have a cardiac arrest in a public location -- airports, public buildings, sporting events or exercise facilities -- most often have a cause for the cardiac arrest that responds to a shock from an AED to save their life," explained lead researcher Dr. Myron L. Weisfeldt, director of the Department of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. "People who have an arrest at home have a much lower frequency of this type of heart irregularity that responds to a shock from an AED."

AEDs placed and used in public places will save lives if they are easy to find and a bystander is willing to use them, Weisfeldt added.

"AED use in the home will benefit some patients but not nearly as consistently as in public places," he added. "In the home, it is even more important to call 911 to get the EMS activated and to perform CPR."

The report is published in the Jan. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, Weisfeldt's team collected data on 12,930 cardiac arrests. Of these, 2,042 happened in a public place and 9,564 occurred at home.

Of these arrests, 79 percent were so-called shockable arrhythmias -- ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. In these arrhythmias, the lower chambers of the heart, known as the ventricles, are contracting chaotically and too fast. The result is that blood is not being circulating throughout the body.

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