Jan 3, 2024 - Health

Requiring defibrillators at more public places might not be enough

A photo of a person holding a defibrilator standing on a soccer pitch

Photo: VI Images via Getty Images

A number of states require places like gyms and sports arenas to keep automated external defibrillators (AEDs) on hand, but those laws have made little difference in how often the life-saving devices are deployed in emergencies, a new JAMA Internal Medicine study finds.

Why it matters: AEDs, which provide an electric shock that can restore normal heart rhythm, can greatly improve the chances of survival from cardiac arrest if bystanders act quickly to use them.

The big picture: Defibrillators gained national attention a year ago when one was used along with CPR to revive Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin after he collapsed on the field during a nationally televised football game.

  • Advocates around the country have since called for states to require more AEDs to be located near sports venues and schools, as well as for increased cardiac screening of athletes.

Details: Led by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, researchers examined 9,290 cases of cardiac arrests that occurred at recreational facilities between 2013 and 2021 in 13 states with AED laws and 27 states without laws.

  • They found in nearly half of these incidents, patients had shockable rhythms, meaning AEDs could have helped.
  • In states with laws requiring AEDs, the median rate of AED use by bystanders was 19% and varied widely across states.
  • In comparison, in states without laws requiring AEDs, that rate was 18.2%.
  • Survival rates also didn't differ much. In states requiring AEDs, the median rate of patients who survived and were discharged from the hospital was 31%, compared with 28.4% in states without such laws.

The bottom line: The researchers say the findings show legislation requiring AEDs to be made available isn't enough to improve the use of AEDs by bystanders.

  • They recommend additional efforts such as creating tools to make it easier to find the devices through geolocation and appropriate signage.
  • They also recommended more measures that could encourage untrained people to use AEDs, such as dispatcher-assisted guidance, and education of facilities staff and the general public.
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