Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Home defibrillators

On call

Home defibrillators

Q. Every time I walk through a mall or airport, I see machines for reviving heart attack victims. My husband has had two heart attacks. He's doing very well now, but I wonder if I can get a device like this for our home. And if I get one, would I be able to learn how to use it?

A. It's an important question. About 166,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur in the U.S. each year, and only about 6% of these patients survive long enough to make it out of the hospital. Any attempt to do better should start at home, since about 80% of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home.

Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) are self-contained, battery-operated devices that can automatically detect ventricular fibrillation and rapid ventricular tachycardia, abnormal heart rhythms that cause immediate loss of consciousness and collapse leading to death unless treatment is started promptly.

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