Defibrillator training for all GPs urged to cut deaths
The number of deaths in Ireland caused by sudden cardiac arrest would be greatly reduced if GPs were equipped with and trained in the use of defibrillators, a new study has found.
Between 3,000 and 5,000 people die annually from sudden cardiac events that might not be fatal if treated in time.
The Health Research Board (HRB) study found that the provision of a defibrillator and appropriate training for every GP in the State would allow rapid intervention, which could save hundreds of lives every year.
Defibrillators are devices that can trigger the heart back into a normal rhythm by applying electric shocks when its beating becomes dangerously rapid or irregular.
“We know how to fix ventricular fibrillation, but fixing it is completely and utterly time-dependent,” said Gerard Bury, professor of general practice at University College Dublin, who led the study.
The research was based on a five-year project funded by the HSE, the Pre-Hospital Emergency Council and the Department of Health, which saw 500 health professionals provided with defibrillators and appropriate training to deal with sudden cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation.
The HRB study found that, at a cost of €4,000 per GP, a defibrillator and appropriate training could be provided, leading to a significant increase in survival rates.
Prof Bury said the use of defibrillators by GPs nationally would increase survival rates “three or fourfold”. Survival rates for sudden cardiac arrests that occur outside of hospital in Ireland are currently just one in 20.
“This sort of structured intervention and support, allied with the strength of general practice can make a huge difference at local level,” Prof Bury said.
“Every GP in the country needs a defibrillator.”
The research findings are set out in the HRB’s Picture of Health 2012, which is published today.
The publication also highlights research carried out by a HRB-funded research team at Trinity College Dublin, which identifies so-called road traffic hot spots on the country’s national primary and secondary roads where crashes are likely.
Dr Erica Donnelly-Swift and Prof Alan Kelly analysed information from some 8,000 collisions on major roads between 2005 and 2009.
Dr Donnelly-Swift said the research should inform policies and measures aimed at reducing fatalities and injuries on the country’s major roads. “Ultimately we hope this research will save lives,” she said.