AEDs in Fitness Facilities Save 9 out of 10 Victims
Updated: Mar 30
In an 18-year study published in the European Society of Cardiology Congress, physicians estimate that the probability of having a fatal arrhythmia is three-times higher in athletes than non-athletes – underscoring the need for fitness clubs to have AEDs within their premises.
According to the study:
“Progetto Vita (Project Life) evaluated the impact of AED purchase by amateur sports centres on survival from sudden cardiac arrest. The study included 252 sports centres in the Piacenza region of Italy. Data on the occurrence and outcome of sudden cardiac arrest at the centres was prospectively collected during an 18 year period. Resuscitation, survival rates, and response times were compared between centres with and without AEDs.
A total of 207 (82%) amateur sports centres acquired an AED during the study period whereas 45 (18%) did not. During the 18 years, 26 sudden cardiac arrests occurred in amateur sport centres, of which 15 (58%) were in centres already equipped with an AED. Onsite AED use significantly reduced the time to first shock from 7.3 to 3.3 minutes (p=0.001). Neurologically intact survival was 93% for patients treated with an onsite AED compared to 9% without an AED (p<0.001).”
“Our results clearly show that the presence of an AED saves lives. Out of 15 patients who suffered a cardiac arrest in centres with an AED, 14 survived and had no neurological damage (93%). That compares to just one survivor without neurological damage out of 11 cardiac arrests in centres without an AED (9%),” shared Dr. Penela.
Dr. Daniela Aschieri, chief of Progetto Vita, continued:
“We also found the quicker the AED was used, the greater the chance of survival. Additionally, the probability of survival was higher when a member of the public used the AED rather than waiting for medical assistance.”
Dr. Aschieri concluded: “Onsite AEDs provide an excellent neurologically intact survival rate for exercise-related cardiac arrest. An AED is a safe tool, even when used by an untrained citizen. In light of our results, we recommend that AEDs be acquired by amateur sports and fitness centres. Educational programmes should be conducted to increase awareness about the issue of sudden death and provide basic knowledge about AED use.”
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when electrical activity in the heart is short-circuited, causing the heart to cease a normal rhythm. The phenomenon occurs suddenly without symptoms or warnings, and it is fatal without early CPR and defibrillation. An AED provides a “shock” (or defibrillation) to the dying heart, electrifying it to life again. AEDs analyze the patient’s heart rhythm and can only charge and deliver therapy to those in need. “An AED is a safe tool, even when used by an untrained citizen,” said Dr. Daniela Aschieri, leader of the Progetto Vita team that conducted the study.
The connection between SCA and intense physical fitness has led to several U.S. states to require that fitness facilities must have at least one AED on their premises with staff trained in CPR. When fitness facilities have AEDs, minimally trained bystanders can help decrease the time-to-defibrillation. “Our results clearly show that the presence of an AED saves lives,” said Dr. Penela. “Out of 15 patients who suffered a cardiac arrest in centers with an AED, 14 survived and had no neurological damage (93%). That compares to just one survivor without neurological damage out of 11 cardiac arrests in centers without an AED (9%).”
Stacie Logan was fortunate enough to have suffered her sudden cardiac arrest at an AED-equipped YMCA gym, and her life was saved when quick-thinking staff performed CPR and used an AED on her.
"They said if I was home I would have been dead,” said Logan. “If I was by myself, or they said if I was somewhere else and they didn’t have an AED or somebody didn’t know CPR, I would have been dead."
Similarly, Dr. Swati Gulati, a UAB Hospital physician, collapsed suddenly while running on the treadmill at her gym, and gym manager Mona Garrett instantly got people around to administer chest compressions and use an AED to resuscitate her. Dr. Gulati woke up on the way to the hospital in the ambulance.
The authors of the Progetto Vita study identified that the quicker the AED is used, the higher the chances of survival. Furthermore, victims of sudden cardiac arrest are more likely to survive when bystanders perform CPR and use the AED than when waiting for EMS dispatchers to dispatch paramedics in an ambulance.
“In light of our results we recommend that AEDs be acquired by amateur sports and fitness centers. Educational programs should be conducted to increase awareness about the issue of sudden death and provide basic knowledge about AED use,” says Dr. Aschieri.