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CPR saves lives, but combined with AED Defibrillators it can save many more

May 2, 2005

CPR saves lives, but combined with AED Defibrillators it can save many more

BOSTON, MA – Studies show that when cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is done right away — and correctly — it saves lives. However, the chances of that happening aren’t very good, reports the May issue of the Harvard Health Letter. Some studies have found that as few as 1 in 20 people who have a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital survive, even with CPR. And even health professionals often don’t perform the procedure correctly.

The Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
The advent of the automated external defibrillator (AED) has added another wrinkle. An AED analyzes the activity of the heart. If it has developed a lethal rhythm or is not beating at all, the machine delivers an electric shock to jolt it back to normal. AEDs can be bought without a prescription for about $1,500.

“The AED presents a tough choice,” says the Health Letter. “It’s theoretically better than CPR because it can restart the heart, whereas CPR is merely a stopgap.” One study found that a defibrillator-CPR combination improved the survival rate over CPR alone (23% versus 14%). But if you run around looking for an AED while neglecting CPR, you could lose lifesaving minutes.

Value of an (AED) Defibrillator
The financial value of a home AED is debatable. You’re plunking down $1,500 on the guess that (a) someone will have a cardiac arrest at home and (b) someone else will be there to use the machine. If you do decide to buy an AED, the Harvard Health Letter advises that you be sure you know how to use the machine and where it is stored. You don’t want to be fumbling around in case of an emergency.

Also in this issue:

  • The Harvard Health Letter celebrates its 30th anniversary
  • The therapeutic side of nicotine
  • Dieting the French way
  • Should you take aspirin for your heart?
  • Are carbonated beverages bad for you?
  • Napping and nighttime sleep
  • A doctor answers: Why are COX-2 drugs linked to heart attacks? And, Should you get an immune system test?

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