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Large-scale study proves volunteer operated defibrillators are life-savers

The first large-scale study to see whether trained volunteers and lay people can use defibrillators to save the lives of cardiac arrest (CA) victims has concluded that their use by lay people is safe, and if the response time can be shortened to within eight minutes there is the potential to save the lives of 15 out of 100 people who collapse suddenly with CA.

Brescia in Italy a large mixed rural and urban county with an area of more than 4,800 square kilometres and a population of well over a million was the site for the Brescia Early Defibrillation Study (BEDS), the results of which are reported (Thursday 1 December) in the European Society of Cardiology's journal European Heart Journal[1].

Dr Riccardo Cappato from Policlinico San Donato, University of Milan, and colleagues from the University of Brescia and the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, initiated BEDS after Italy passed a law allowing the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) by non-medical personnel.

A total of 2,186 volunteers and lay people received five hours of training involving theory and practical instruction, including training in basic life support, from 14 qualified instructors. One AED was supplied for every 22,700 of the population, in addition to the existing manually operated defibrillators used by the county's 10 hospitals and in five medically equipped ambulances. The new volunteers were then organised into groups[2].

The study started in 2000, but for a two year period before that the team collected data to set the parameters for the study, including the numbers of CAs that happened outside of hospitals, the time it took for help to arrive and the number of patients who survived free of any neurological impairment one year after their heart attack. Further data were collected during a six-month pilot study. The historical cohort of 692 acted as comparisons for the prospective study, which involved 702 similar patients between 2000 and 2
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Contact: Margaret Willson
m.willson@mwcommunications.org.uk
44-153-677-2181
European Society of Cardiology
30-Nov-2005


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