They are fast becoming standard equipment in planes, sports stadiums and offices. On CBS News This Morning, Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports just how easy they are to use.
TV doctors are seen in the emergency room using defibrillators. They apply the paddles to the chest, shout "clear!" And they jolt a cardiac arrest victim back to life.
Now, a study published in Circulation found you don't need to be a doctor to use one.
It shows, sixth graders with modest training can learn to use automated external defibrillators almost as efficiently as paramedics.
Fifteen students were given brief instructions on how to remove the electrode pads and where to place them.
It took them an average of 90 seconds to complete defibrillation. And all felt confident they could use it on a family member if necessary.
The American Heart Association estimates sudden cardiac arrests kill 250,000 Americans each year.
Most are caused by abnormal heart rhythms called ventricular fibrillation. A jolt from a defibrillator stops the abnormal rhythm and allows the heart to start beating normally again.
"The broader use of these devices by the public could save as many as 50,000 lives each year," says Dr. Gust H. Bardy of the University of Washington Medical School, a researcher involved in the study.
Training is crucial; the equipment will not work if you don't follow the directions. But this device is very user-friendly. It even indicates to stay away when you push the shock button, says Dr. Bardy.
One alternative is to wait for professional help. Studies show at least 95 percent of those who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die, according to the journal.
These devices are not for sale to the public without a doctor's prescription. And the cost is approximately $3,000.
©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved