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Defibrillators' Success in Preventing Death after Cardiac Arrest Leads to Calls for Widespread Use

Aired October 26, 2000 - 1:39 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Having a heart attack is undoubtedly a frightening experience, but you can survive it if you get help in time. That's the logic behind the move to put automatic defibrillators on board passenger planes.

CNN's Jonathan Aiken reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not that there's ever a good place to have a heart attack, but one of the worst places surely has to be 35,000 feet in the air.

MIKE TIGHE: On November 19th, 8:00 in the morning, we boarded a plane, American Airlines flight 11, Boston to Los Angeles.

AIKEN: When Mike Tighe went into cardiac arrest in 1998, he had the good fortune to be on an airline that equipped its planes and trained its crews in the use of AEDs, automatic external defibrillators.

TIGHE: Because it was used quickly, because of the use of CPR, there was no deprivation of oxygen to my brain, so I really came out of this whole experience with no damage.

AIKEN (on camera): Mike Tighe's case was one of 200 where AED's were used either in airports or on airliners between June of '97 and July of last year. A study in "The New England Journal of Medicine" found their use after cardiac arrest boosted long-term survival rates to up to 40 percent.

DR. RICHARD L. PAGE, UT SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER: Those passengers would likely not have survived, since it takes at least 20 minutes to land an aircraft and have a land-based crew resuscitate the patient.

AIKEN (voice-over): AED's are fixtures on not just American, but Delta, United and most US Airways aircraft and they're up and running now at Baltimore's BWI, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway Field and, as of Wednesday, at Dallas-Fort Worth.

But it's not just in airplanes and airports where portable defibrillators have proven their worth. A parallel study in the "Journal" looked at the use of AEDs by trained security personnel on nearly 150 patrons of 32 casinos in Nevada and Mississippi. It found survival rates as high as 74 percent when AED's were used within three minutes of cardiac arrest.

DR. ROSE MARIE ROBERTSON, AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION: We know that for every minute that we lose in defibrillating someone who has had a sudden cardiac arrest, we lose seven to 10 percent of the people who could survive.

AIKEN: The success of AED's has led to calls for them to become as common as fire extinguishers in public places, and the FAA has proposed they be included on all medium and large aircraft.

Jonathan Aiken for CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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