Health Team

AEDs in hospitals might not be as effective

Posted November 15, 2010 4:12 p.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2010 6:59 p.m. EST

— Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, have increased the survival of cardiac arrest patients in public areas, such as airports or the workplace.

A study published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, however, suggests they might be less effective or potentially harmful when used in hospitals.

The devices are being increasingly used in hospitals, because staff can get them to a patient’s bedside faster than a defibrillator.

Researchers studied 11,695 hospitalized patients with cardiac arrests at 204 hospitals over a period of eight years.

They found that, for cardiac arrest patients who were treatable with a defibrillator, the time to shock the patients and survival rates were similar with both AEDs and regular defibrillators.

But AEDs offered a lower survival rate for patients who couldn’t be treated with a defibrillator.

"One of the reasons we didn't see a benefit with an AED in the hospital setting, in large part, is because fewer than 20 percent of patients who have a cardiac arrest are having rhythms that are treatable with a defibrillator," said Dr. Paul Chan, with Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Mo.

Researchers say the next step is a randomized controlled trial to confirm these findings, which might warrant a change in how AEDs are used in hospitals.