Volunteers Trained in Automatic Defibrillator Use Can Help Reduce Heart Attack Deaths

Volunteers Trained in Automatic Defibrillator Use Can Help Reduce Heart Attack Deaths

Aug 10, 2004 6:00 PM

Training nonmedical volunteers to use automatic external defibrillator (AED) on people who suffer heart attacks in public places can help save up to 4,000 lives every year in the United States, according to a recent study conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine and 23 other research centers.

While it is well-known that AED, commonly used by medical and emergency services personnel, can save lives, the research study wanted to find out if laypersons can successfully carry out the procedure. An AED is a light device that assesses a person's heartbeat and administers electric shock, if necessary, to restore the heart's normal rhythm.

"Trained laypersons can use AEDs safely and effectively," according to study results published in the Aug. 12 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) study was conducted for three years at 235 sites in the United States and Canada. It involved 19,000 volunteers, mostly employees in shopping malls, recreational facilities, community centers, and large office buildings. Half of the volunteers were trained to use AED with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and the other half were trained only in CPR.

Utah trained 2,000 volunteers in CPR and AED, the largest number of participants, said Clay Mann, Ph.D., M.S., principal investigator in Utah and a researcher at the Intermountain Injury Control Research Center, a part of the U medical school's Department of Pediatrics.

During the study, volunteers responded to 235 incidents of cardiac arrest nationwide. There were 30 survivors among those treated by CPR- and AED-trained volunteers, compared with 15 survivors among those treated by CPR-trained volunteers.

Each year, approximately 737,000 Americans die from heart disease, and 220,000 of those deaths are due to sudden cardiac arrest.

"Utah's participation in this nationwide study has made the state more prepared for cardiac emergencies than ever before," said Mann. About 70 public facilities in Utah involved in the study now have AEDs and AED-trained staff, he said.

Alfred Hallstrom, Ph.D., of University of Washington, and Joseph P. Ornato, M.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, are the study's lead authors.

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