September 20, 2000

Is It Time for Over-the-Counter Defibrillators?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.


Controversies Section Editor: Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, Executive Deputy Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(11):1435-1438. doi:10.1001/jama.284.11.1435

Sudden cardiac arrest remains the number one killer among adults in the United States. This year, at least 250,000 people will die suddenly (often with no symptoms or within 1 hour of symptom onset) from coronary artery disease before they reach a hospital.1,2 Resuscitation after cardiac arrest is possible, but only if the collapse is witnessed and the rhythm causing collapse is ventricular fibrillation. Pulseless ventricular tachycardia also has a good outcome but is uncommonly seen as the first recorded rhythm by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel. All other rhythms, such as pulseless electrical activity and asystole, provide virtually no chance of survival.

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