External Defibrillators a Sound Investment

Placing them in certain public places is worth the money

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THURSDAY, Sept. 25, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Automatic external defibrillators installed in public places are good investments if a location is expected to be the scene of at least one cardiac arrest every seven years.

So says a University of Iowa/University of Michigan study in the September issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study also concluded that locations such as large retail stores (one in 2,000 probability of being used) and hotels (one in 100 annual probability) are not cost-effective candidates for defibrillator placement.

Automatic external defibrillators, which cost about $3,000 each, are increasingly being installed in airports, schools, retail stores, hotels and places of worship.

"Our conclusions support the American Heart Association recommendation that defibrillators should be placed in public locations where there is a one in five chance that the defibrillator will be used in a given year to treat a person with cardiac arrest," principal investigator Dr. Peter Cram, University of Iowa assistant professor of internal medicine, says in a news statement.

"However, defibrillators also are being placed in a number of low-risk public locations where the money might be better spent in other ways, such as improving the existing EMS program," Cram says.

The study identified three crucial factors that should influence defibrillator placement in public places. They are: the number of people at the site; the length of time the people are there; and whether those people are at risk for cardiac arrest.

For example, a crowded senior center would be a more appropriate location for a defibrillator than an elementary school. Airports, which are in constant use by large numbers of people, are another good location for defibrillators. Evidence suggests a defibrillator at an airport would be used once every two years.

For their study, the researchers analyzed existing studies and data on defibrillator placements in the Seattle area.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about automatic external defibrillators.

SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Center, news release, September 2003

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