Author Affiliation: Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.
Controversies Section Editor: Phil B. Fontanarosa,
MD, Executive Deputy Editor.
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.
Eisenberg MS. Is It Time for Over-the-Counter Defibrillators?. JAMA. 2000;284(11):1435–1438. doi:10.1001/jama.284.11.1435