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Posted: April 08, 2008

Home Defibrillators Not as Effective as Thought: Report

Consumers at high risk for cardiac arrest might feel better having a defibrillator in their home, but a new study suggests it would provide little, if any, help in an emergency.

The home versions of automated external defibrillators are similar to the equipment paramedics and emergency room doctors use to provide a heart-starting jolt of electricity to patients. In the hands of professionals, they often make the difference between life and death.

But not so at home, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and reported recently at a gathering of cardiologists in Chicago.

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Researchers who studied 7,000 at-risk patients in a trial instead found that those with a home defibrillator died as often as those who didn't when they suffered cardiac arrest at home.

Home defibrillators are available from a number of manufacturers, and usually cost around $1,000. To date, healthcare officials have encouraged them as a means of improving the dismal survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest. Currently, the survival rate of people suffering sudden cardiac arrest at home is below 5%.

In September 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of automatic external defibrillators designed specifically for consumers. Previously, the device -- called the HeartStart Home Defibrillator -- was available for home use only by prescription.

In order for the FDA to grant over-the-counter clearance, the manufacturer had to demonstrate that its device could be safely and effectively used by lay people based on written instructions and the device itself.

Since 2004, Phillips, the manufacturer of the HeartStart Home Defibrillator, says it has deployed more than 175,000 of the devices in homes and public places, such as airports and shopping malls.

(Article courtesy of

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