Home defibrillators may soon be available

Monday, August 2nd 2004, 9:45 am
By: News On 6

The government may make getting an Automated External Defibrillator for personal use easier.

Right now the FDA requires a doctor’s prescription to buy one for the home. News on 6 reporter Rick Wells talked to a Tulsa cardiologist who believes greater access to the machines might be good.

Every year thousands of Americans die because the heart's electrical system goes haywire and it stops. CPR buys that person time but only a jolt of electricity can restart the heart. For years only medical personnel could administer the shock, but over the years the machines have become more user friendly. It talks you through the process and once the electrodes are attached, the machine analyzes the heart rhythm and tells you what to do.

Dr Andy Roye: "These things should be in public places, and people trained in cardiac life support and trained on how to use them."

One is installed at St John’s Episcopal Church and Gina Juett says she and several of the staff had a day's worth of training on its operation and on CPR. Dr Roye says knowing how and when to use these defibrillators is important.

"Just because people collapse doesn't mean they need shocked necessarily." Last fall, a major study showed having portable defibrillators in public places can double a patient’s chance of survival. Those facts lead the FDA, last week, to evaluate the prospect that a portable defibrillator in the home might save some lives there too.

Currently the FDA requires a doctor's prescription to buy one for home use; Dr Roye says changing that might not be a bad idea. "I’m sure there's a down side to it, but it's not obvious at the moment what that would be."

Dr Roye said having an Automated External Defibrillator is not a replacement for knowing essential first aid like CPR. Once the heart is re-started, rescue breathing might have to be performed until medical personnel arrive.