11/13/02 - At-Home Defibrillators

For the last few years portable defibrillators have become more common. Defibrillators are the electric shock pads doctors use to get hearts beating normally again. First they showed up in police cars, then airports and even malls, now, they're coming into homes. The first home defibrillator was just approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The machine is designed to help people electronically shock someone's heart into beating again before paramedics arrive, but there are some warnings.
Paramedic firefighter Billy Crump says, "If you have someone there, and within a minute can deliver defibrillation, it's going to benefit the patient." Most heart attacks happen at home, and each minute that passes lowers the chance of survival by ten percent. So the new, at home defibrillator could save lives.
"When you run into defibrillation, the faster you deliver the shock, the greater chance of resuscitating the patient," Crump says. Crump works at the Cape Girardeau Fire Department. The department has had portable defibrillators in it's trucks for several years. He says they use them on patients during emergency calls around four times a month. "Basically a defibrillator stops the heart, and what you're hoping is that it will start in a normal pattern," Crump says.
Portable defibrillators, basically run themselves, but Crump says people who use defibrillators, or the new at home ones just approved by the FDA need to be trained. "It concerns me, even if they go through initial training that they won't keep their training up," Crump says. "It's not something you use on a daily basis, they need to know what they're doing with it."
Using it wrongly could actually kill the person you're trying to save, and the patient isn't the only person who could be hurt. If someone touches a patient, that's hooked up to the defibrillator, they can get shocked too. The new at home defibrillators are available by prescription only, and cost about 23-hundred dollars. Emergency personnel are trained to use the defibrillators. As far as the at home devices, there's no information on what kind of training is needed, but makers of the device do say they made the directions easy enough for a six grader to understand.