Health Watch -- Defibrillation Training

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You may have been trained in CPR, but what about defibrillation?

Automatic defibrillators are being placed in more and more public facilities, such as airports, sports arenas and shopping malls. These devices are smaller, more portable versions of the devices you see doctors using on medical TV shows to shock hearts back into a normal rhythm. The automatic defibrillators don't require a medical degree to use, though. The devices are automated enough that anyone with basic training can use them to save a life.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia recently verified that training volunteers to use these devices saves lives. They trained about 20,000 people across the United States and Canada. One half of the group learned CPR and how to use automatic defibrillators. The other half just learned CPR. Researchers found that using both CPR and an automatic defibrillation device saved about twice as many lives.

This research confirms previous results reported by doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. They conducted studies of these devices on airplanes and in casinos and found that a substantial percentage of people who were resuscitated using these devices ended up surviving. Normally, survival rates are very low for people who have heart attacks outside hospitals.

Dr. Jose Joglar, a UT Southwestern cardiologist, predicts that automated defibrillators could save up to 50,000 lives a year. These devices could become as common as fire extinguishers.