New guidelines OK defibrillators in kids

Monday, June 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Portable defibrillators that shock faltering hearts back to normal rhythms are safe for children ages 1 to 8, according to guidelines published Tuesday.

``Extending their use to younger children may mean more children's lives may be saved,'' Dr. Ricardo Samson, lead author of the new statement and an associate pediatrics professor at the University of Arizona.

Automated defibrillators are increasingly being installed in airports and other public places and have shown they can save the lives of adults and adolescents.

In the past few years, data have shown that the devices can work in children, too, and versions designed specifically for youngsters have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

These developments prompted the new guidelines from the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation, which includes the American Heart Association and several international medical groups.

The guidelines were published in Tuesday's issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, and also appear in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Conditions requiring defibrillation in children are rare, but include commotio cordis, a life-threatening condition caused by a ball or other object striking the chest.

Some newer devices can reduce the adult-size shock to a level supposedly more suitable for children. But data have shown that adult-size shocks in older models can benefit children, too, said Dr. Vinay Nadkarni, chairman of the heart association's emergency cardiovascular care committee.

Still, he cautioned that the devices are useless for respiratory conditions, which are the most common cause of cardiac arrest in young children.

For that reason, the guidelines recommend first giving one minute of standard cardiopulmonary resuscitation to children ages 1 to 8 to see if that revives them.