March 15, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 12

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    University teams up with others for defibrillator trial in Chicago area

    John Easton
    Medical Center Public Affairs

    After securing a two-year grant of $200,000 from the Chicago Community Trust, the University has joined forces with the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s Public Access to Defibrillation Trial.

    This nationwide study will include PAD programs, in which laypersons in high-density public locations will be trained to use AEDs, or automated external defibrillators.

    The study will determine whether the PAD programs significantly increase survival rates by reducing the amount of time from collapse to defibrillation. Nationwide, the average time from collapse to first shock is more than eight minutes.

    “Each minute of delay drops the odds of survival by 7 to 10 percent,” said Michael Sayre, Associate Professor in Clinical Medicine, a member of the University’s Emergency Resuscitation Research Center and director of the Chicago arm of the PAD trial. “The shock should ideally be given in the first three minutes,” he said.

    The PAD Trial is designed to see if trained volunteers in key locations can get the devices to the people who need them quickly enough, if that will save lives and reduce complications, and if it can be done at a reasonable cost. The Chicago component of the study will involve 2,000 nonmedical volunteers in 60 to 80 community sites across the city. Already about 40 sites have signed up to participate, including the Lyric Opera’s Civic Opera House, four senior centers administered by the City of Chicago Department of Aging and the Museum of Science and Industry. More sites are still being sought.

    Studies have shown that AEDs work well, and defibrillation is recognized as the most effective strategy for treating sudden cardiac arrest. All participants in the trial will be trained to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest, access the 911 system and administer CPR. Half of the volunteers also will be trained to use an AED promptly while awaiting the arrival of the emergency medical team.

    “We know that just putting hundreds of these devices out there is not adequate,” said Sayre. “A successful program will require training thousands of nonmedical volunteers in key locations to recognize a cardiac arrest, call 911, begin CPR and use the defibrillator promptly.”

    Cardiac arrest survival rates are quite low in the United States, around 5 percent. The rates are even lower in most big cities, where crowds, traffic and high-rise buildings compound the other delays. In Chicago, for example, fewer than 2 percent of the victims of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive. That translates into about 10 deaths per day in Chicago.

    Prompt treatment of victims of sudden cardiac arrest, including rapid use of an AED to jolt the heart back into a normal rhythm, can prevent as many as half of these deaths.

    Anyone who has questions or concerns about the study, or would like to take part in the research, should call the Public Access Defibrillator Study at (773) 834-7232, or visit the trial’s Web site at http://errc.bsd.uchicago.edu/pad.htm.

    The Chicago Community Trust was founded in 1915 as an innovative way for concerned citizens to put charitable dollars to work for the benefit of metropolitan Chicago. The American Heart Association spent about $337 million during fiscal year 1999-2000 on research support, public and professional education, and community programs.