A new study has found that having a portable heart defibrillator does not raise the chances of survival in people who have heart attacks in their homes.
The U.S. researchers say defibrillators offer heart attack survivors no better protection against a cardiac arrest than having someone around with good cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.
The researchers at the Seattle Institute of Cardiac Research conducted a large study on more than 7,000 patients in North America, Europe, and Australia with a history of heart attacks.
Because the majority of sudden cardiac arrests occur at home, the researchers were interested to see if placing defibrillators in homes could save lives.
Defibrillators on hand in public places such as airports have helped people survive sudden cardiac arrest, as without immediate treatment with a defibrillator or CPR, most people die within minutes.
Each of the participants had a spouse or person at home willing and able to perform CPR and use a defibrillator.
One group was told to call an ambulance and perform CPR, while the other group was told to use the defibrillator first, then seek emergency help.
They were then tracked for a three year period and the researchers found that having the portable defibrillator offered no advantage over the standard practice of calling emergency help, and then starting CPR.
In the study, a total of 450 people died, including 22 people in the group who were assigned defibrillators.
Study leader Dr. Gust Bardy says there was no mortality benefit and the placement of defibrillators in homes would be an inefficient strategy in public health terms.
Experts say future efforts should focus on education, modification of risk factors and other methods for primary prevention of heart disease.
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology's meeting in Chicago and is published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.