Headlines are a funny thing. Typically, those writing the articles don’t get to decide what headline labels their work. That’s why we have seemingly conflicting headlines describing a recent study on in-home automatic external defibrillators. The Associated Press is running “Home Defibrillators Save Lives in Study”, while the New York Times claims “Study Finds Home Defibrillator Is No Help.”
Apparently it comes down to numbers. From the AP article:
Researchers tested them in 7,000 people in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand. About half were given a device and a spouse or companion was trained to use it, then told to call emergency medical services. For the others, family members were trained in CPR and told to call EMS.
Over about three years, 450 people died, but only 160 were from cardiac arrest. Of those, only 58 were at home and suffered the attack in front of someone.
Defibrillators were used in 32 cases all of them appropriately. The overall survival in both groups was comparable and far better than researchers expected.
Unfortunately, the numbers weren’t on the AEDs’ side, as the results lacked statistical significance:
So few people in the study were stricken at home, and CPR by spouses in the comparison group was so good, that the 7,000-person study wound up being be too small to prove that a defibrillator can improve survival.
In the end, it turns out both sets of headlines are mostly correct. Yes, lives were saved (in fact, a number of friends and neighbors of study participants ended up being saved by the devices), but the numbers can’t prove AEDs are a better option than good CPR training.
The study is published in the current New England Journal of Medicine…
More from the Associated Press and the Gray Lady (NYT)…
We’ll let James Bond’s experience with an AED close things out: