Study Underlines Importance of On-Site Defibrillation Equipment

Pila Martinez
Oct. 25, 2000

Having automated external defibrillators in casinos and other places with disproportionately high numbers of cardiac arrests would save thousands of lives every year, a University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center doctor writes in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Terence D. Valenzuela, conducted a study in which casino security officers were trained to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) -- electronic devices that confirm whether someone has suffered cardiac arrest and then deliver a shock to restore normal heart activity.

The guards observed nearly 150 cases of cardiac arrest, using defibrillators on the 105 who collapsed due to the most common cause of cardiac arrest: ventricular fibrillation, in which the ventricles contract in a rapid and uncoordinated way. More than half of those people survived to hospital discharge.

Almost 75 percent of patients who received an electric shock within three minutes of their collapse survived to hospital discharge, compared with only about one-half of those shocked after more than three minutes.

Valenzuela, a professor or emergency medicine and a member of the UA's Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center, and his colleagues report that the survival rates are the best ever among studies of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

If AEDs were made more available and non-medical people were trained to use them, Dr. Valenzuela says, cases of cardiac arrest would be treated earlier, giving victims a better chance at living normal lives after discharge from the hospital.

He adds that he was surprised by how easy it was to train the security officers and by how well they performed in treating the cardiac arrest victims.

Each year, about 225,000 adults in the United States die from sudden cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association.




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