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Defibrilatos in General Practice save lives

4 December 2012

In Ireland, an estimated 3-5,000 people die each year from sudden cardiac events some of which might not be fatal if they were treated in time. But many more of those lives could be saved if all GPs are equipped and trained to intervene rapidly, according to a study supported by the HRB.

The research was based on the five-year MERIT project, funded by the Health Services Executive, Pre-Hospital Emergency Council and the Department of Health and Children. That project equipped 500 GPs around Ireland with defibrillators and provided appropriate training to deal with a sudden cardiac arrest due to a heart complication called ventricular fibrillation.

'We know how to fix ventricular fibrillation, but fixing it is completely and utterly time dependent,' explains Gerard Bury, Professor of General Practice at University College Dublin.

'Nationally, only one in 20 people, at best, will survive a sudden cardiac arrest if it happens out of hospital. But this research, on the data from approximately 300 sudden cardiac events recorded in MERIT shows that the availability and proper use of defibrillators by GPs, meant patients were three-four times more likely to survive the incident outside the hospital,' says Professor Bury. 'And predominantly the events that we have recorded have been in small towns and rural Ireland, where traditionally outcomes have been worse.'

'The cost of around ?4,000 per GP for equipment and training must be seen as a positive investment in terms of saving lives,' notes Professor Bury.

'This sort of structured intervention and support, allied with the strength of general practice can make a huge difference at local level,' he says. 'Every GP in the country needs a defibrillator.'


  • Evidence that putting defibrillators in general practice can save lives.

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