Defibrillators: Not Just for Gyms Anymore

Study suggests increased access to defibrillators

defibrillator outside in a park

While you’re working out at your gym or health club, it’s good to see that automated external defibrillator (AED) on the wall — just in case.

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Treatment with a defibrillator may make the difference between life and death during cardiac arrest.

Now results from a new study suggests the placement of AEDs should be expanded to more facilities where people exert themselves — even places like bowling alleys and dance studios.

Placement of defibrillators in question

The easy-to-use automated defibrillator contains electrodes that are placed on an arrest victim’s chest and a built-in computer to detect heart rhythm. If prompted by the computer, the operator delivers shocks to the chest to restore normal heart rhythm.

 Stephen Meldon, MD, is an emergency room doctor at Cleveland Clinic.

 “We know two things make a difference in survival from cardiac arrest: early, effective CPR and early defibrillation,” says Dr. Meldon. “We have public access defibrillators but we need to know where to put them. That’s the key to this study — now we can look at alternate sites to place access defibrillators.”

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Where incidence of cardiac arrests were highest

University of Wisconsin researchers looked at 849 sudden cardiac arrests that occurred at public indoor facilities in Seattle and King County, Washington, over 12 years.

Results showed:

  • 52 sudden cardiac arrests occurred at traditional exercise facilities, like gyms and fitness centers
  • 84 occurred at alternative exercise facilities, like bowling alleys, community centers, indoor tennis and ice skating facilities, roller skating rinks, dance studios and martial arts schools
  • 713 happened at non-exercise facilities

Cardiac arrest survival higher at gyms

77 percent of the cardiac arrests happened during exercise. The most common activity where arrest occurred was basketball.

However, survival rates at the gym were 56 percent — but only 45 percent at the alternative facilities.

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Dr. Meldon says the research points to a need for AEDs at alternative exercise locations. He recommends asking if an AED is available at the places you go for any kind of physical activity.

“You should look into these places, especially the nontraditional exercise facilities, and see if they have AEDs and a staff trained in CPR and AEDs,” says Dr. Meldon.

And, if you are starting an exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor first if you have cardiovascular risk factors or a history of cardiovascular disease.

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