Accessibility links

Breaking News

HEALTH REPORT – November 27, 2002: HeartStart Home Defibrillator - 2002-11-25

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Each year, about two-hundred-twenty-thousand Americans die when their hearts suddenly stop beating without warning. Most of these deaths take place at home. Recently the United States Food and Drug Administration approved an emergency device especially for use in the home. The Philips Electronics’ HeartStart Home Defibrillator uses electricity to restart a failing heart.

The defibrillator includes directions for how to use it. The company that makes the device provided the F-D-A with studies showing that people who had never used the HeartStart could operate it. The home defibrillator will cost almost two-thousand-three-hundred dollars. A doctor’s order is required to buy it.

People of any age can suffer sudden deadly heart failure. However, the average patient is a man in his sixties. Doctors say the person using the home defibrillator most often would probably be a woman trying to save her husband’s life.

Other kinds of defibrillators now are being used in public places in the United States. These include offices, eating places, airports and stores. These places usually train someone to use the device. The public version of the defibrillator requires more skill than the home version.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is another method often used to restore the beating of the heart. A person must be trained to perform this method, called C-P-R.

The American Red Cross praised the government’s decision to approve the home defibrillator. A Red Cross official said the organization looks forward to a time when all Americans will be able to use a defibrillator. He called the F-D-A ruling one step closer to that goal.

However, the F-D-A decision has increased debate about ways to save a dying heart patient. Some experts say having a defibrillator at home may increase the chances of death. They say family members may waste valuable time trying to use the device instead of immediately calling for medical help. This means telephoning for emergency health workers. These paramedics administer immediate treatment. Then they rush the patient to a hospital.

The American Heart Association says it cannot yet advise the use of home defibrillators. A spokesman said research is needed to show if the devices save lives.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.