According to a new study, portable heart defibrillators do not raise the chances of survival in people who suffer heart attacks while at home.
Researchers at the Seattle Institute of Cardiac Research conducted the study on more than 7,000 patients in the United States, Europe and Australia. These patients all had a history of heart attacks. The study was conducted because the majority of sudden cardiac arrests do occur at home and researchers wanted to see if placing defibrillators in homes would save lives. Researchers said that defibrillators offer heart attack survivors no better protection against cardiac arrest then does having someone around with cardiopulmonary resuscitation knowledge.
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Criteria for the study included each of the participants having a spouse or person at home who was able and willing to perform CPR and use a defibrillator. The participants were separated into two groups - one was told to call an ambulance and perform CPR - the other was told to use the defibrillator first and then seek emergency help.
The participants were followed for a three-year period and researchers found that having the portable defibrillator had no more advantages over the standard practice of calling emergency help and starting CPR. During the study period, a total of 50 people died, including 22 people in the group who were assigned defibrillators.
Defibrillators on hand in public places such as airports have helped people survive sudden cardiac arrest, as without immediate treatment with a defibrillator or CPR, most people die within minutes.
The study was led by Dr. Gust Bardy, who said that there was no mortality benefit and the placement of defibrillators in homes would be an inefficient strategy in public health terms. According to experts, future efforts should focus on education, modification of risk factors and other methods for primary prevention of heart disease.
Findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's meeting in Chicago this week and are published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Read a related NIH announcement at: