(NaturalNews) Expensive home defibrillator machines do not improve heart attack patients' chances of survival, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Seattle Institute for Cardiac Research, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers followed 7,001 heart attack survivors for 37 months, placing defibrillators into the homes of half of them and instructing the other half to call 911 or other emergency medical assistance if they experienced another heart attack. None of the participants had been considered suitable for implantation with defibrillators.
Defibrillators are devices that use an electrical current to restart a failing heart. The home defibrillators used in the study were identical to those found in many public locations.
Overall, only 450 of the heart attack patients had died after 37 months. The survival rate among the defibrillator group was not significantly different than the rate among the other group.
"It really amazed me that the survival prospects for this group were so promising," said lead researcher Gust H. Bardy. "A 2 percent-a-year death rate for 60-year-old patients, that surprises me."
Bardy noted that the defibrillators did not fail to work as advertised; they simply did not end up being needed most of the time.
"It's not that the devices are ineffective," he said. "When they were used, they did real well."
The devices were used only 18 times, and in six cases were successful in saving the patient's life.
In an accompanying editorial, David J. Callans of the University of Pennsylvania said that home use of defibrillators should not be encouraged, largely due to the fact that they are so expensive.
"Future efforts should turn toward education, modification of risk factors and other methods for primary prevention of heart disease," he said.
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