Bloomberg News

Most State Police Lack Equipment to Save Heart-Attack Victims

November 29, 2011

Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Seven out of 10 state police officers don’t carry equipment in their patrol cars that helps jump-start the heart after cardiac arrest, a missed opportunity to save lives, University of Pennsylvania researchers said.

Only 14 of 46 state police agencies that responded to a survey said their vehicles are equipped with automated external defibrillators, according to research released today at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Emergency medical teams treat about 300,000 people each year outside the hospital for cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops beating, and less than 8 percent of those survive, according to the association. Police vehicles are typically one of the first to arrive on the scene in the critical minutes that may help increase survival, said study author Benjamin Abella.

“Policy makers and those who are supervising police agencies need to recognize that police are a very important and often neglected link in improving survival,” said Abella, clinical research director for the Center for Resuscitation Science and the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Philadelphia-based university, in a telephone interview.

If an external defibrillator is used in the first minutes after cardiac arrest, it can triple the chances of survival, Abella said. The device costs about $1,000.

Philips, Medtronic

Makers of the defibrillators include Philips Electronics NV, based in Amsterdam, Minneapolis-based Medtronic Inc. and Zoll Medical Corp. of Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

The researchers asked police agencies in all 50 states to complete an online survey about their use of automated external defibrillators. Forty-six agencies completed the survey.

Of the 14 agencies with the equipment, the majority put the devices in less than half of their vehicles, said Sarah Wallace, a study author and a research fellow at the university.

About 78 percent of the 46 states police agencies said they train their offices in using the defibrillators, while 98 percent trained their officers in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“Equipping state police vehicles with AEDs is a really important opportunity to improve survival from cardiac arrest,” Wallace said in a Nov. 14 telephone interview.

--Editors: Bruce Rule, Angela Zimm

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Ostrow in New York at nostrow1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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