UT Southwestern researchers find automated external defibrilators are safe and effective aboard airplanes

ading cause of death in the United States with an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 cases per year.

The automated external defibrillator was used on 200 patients as a monitor and to administer shock. "The victim must have the abnormal rhythm called ventricular fibrillation to require a shock," Page explained. "Not everyone who loses consciousness needs a shock. They may be in normal rhythm and have passed out or they may already be dead and not have a rhythm or have a flatline rhythm. In these cases, no shock should be administered."

Electrical shock was administered to 15 people experiencing ventricular fibrillation. Four of the 15 patients who received shocks had cardiac arrest in the airport terminal. None of these patients survived. The remaining patients receiving shocks had cardiac arrest aboard the aircraft. Of those 11 patients, six survived. After being removed from the aircraft, the six patients were transferred to the hospital and later discharged at their full functional status.

The rate of survival after defibrillation during the study from June 1997 to July 1999 was 40 percent.

"The percentage compares favorable with the rate of survival to discharge among patients who received a defibrillator shock in a setting other than an airliner," Page said. "The device was also safe when used as a monitor; in no case was an inappropriate shock recommended or delivered."

Page and his colleagues analyzed data collected from electrocardiograms (EKG) used to measure electrical activity in the heart. Using the EKG, cardiologists were capable of evaluating the function and safety of the device. EKG data were available for analysis in all but 15 cases.

The devices were approved for airline use in 1996 by the Food and Drug Administration. In 1998, the Aviation Medical Assistance Act was passed relinquishing liability for both airlines and for medically qualified passengers administering the procedure. "These devices are so simple that even an unt

Contact: Amy Shields
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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