Recent research suggests that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) used in most hospitals save fewer lives than older, low-tech versions, the Washington Post reports.
AEDs provide step-by-step audio instructions for providing electrical currents to shock hearts back into normal rhythm. After an American Heart Association (AHA) panel in 2000 concluded that the devices would accelerate patient care, hospitals nationwide purchased the machines. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimates that U.S. hospitals purchased almost 100,000 of the basic automated models between 2000 and 2010.
However, a recent study based on FDA data showed that almost 1,000 U.S. residents die in hospitals each year because the devices take longer to assess patients than older methods. According to the researchers, between 1993 to 2008, FDA received reports that the devices sometimes did not work properly, in some cases turning off unexpectedly or not delivering the recommended shock. FDA said manufacturers have recalled tens of thousands of the devices.
In addition, a study in JAMA last year found that "AED use was associated with a lower rate of survival after in-hospital cardiac arrest compared with no AED use." According to findings, patients who go into cardiac arrest often are sicker than average patients and might have complex issues that make AEDs less effective. Researchers noted that using AEDs sometimes interfered with other life-saving techniques. Meanwhile, the study found that AEDs did not lead to accelerated treatment because many nurses had not been adequately trained to use the devices.
AHA officials said new findings likely will not persuade it to reconsider its guidelines when they are eligible for a review in 2015. Dana Edelson, an assistant professor at University of Chicago Medical Center who was not on the AHA committee, said, "[I]t would be a mistake to throw out a blanket statement [that] hospitals shouldn’t be using an AED," adding, “It depends who is there in the middle of the night" (Fowler, Post, 11/14).
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