Heart Defibrillators

By Jill Moss

This is a VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

Doctors today often use a machine to restart a heart that has stopped beating. The machine is a defibrillator. It is used on people who suffer cardiac arrest when their heart loses the ability to pump blood. The defibrillator sends an electric shock to the heart, which causes the heart to start beating again at a normal rate. Defibrillators save hundreds of lives each year. As a result, researchers now say that putting them in public places may save even more lives.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of two new studies. In one study, security guards were trained to use defibrillators. The guards worked in places in Nevada and Mississippi where people played games for money. Defibrillators were placed in the buildings. The study included ninety incidents when someone's heart stopped beating. A security guard was able to restart the heart in fifty-nine percent of the cases.

In the second study, researchers examined the use of defibrillators on flights of American Airlines planes. American Airlines is the first company to put defibrillators on all their planes. Flight attendants working for the company were trained on how to use them.

In this study, thirteen passengers had incidents of cardiac arrest but their hearts were shocked by a defibrillator. In each case, the person was saved. The defibrillators also helped doctors traveling on American Airlines inspect the condition of passengers with other heart problems.

About two-hundred-fifty-thousand Americans die each year from cardiac arrest. The chance of surviving drops ten percent for each minute that passes without a defibrillator shocking the heart back into a normal beat.

The American Hearth Association started a campaign last year to make the defibrillator more widely used. About one-hundred communities are working to place the devices in more public places. With more defibrillators in use, the survival rates for cardiac arrest patients in the United States would rise twenty to thirty percent. Heart Association officials say that could save fifty-thousand lives a year.

Defibrillators cost about three-thousand dollars. Yet, health officials say the cost of a defibrillator is small when considering the value of a life saved.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English