Automated external defibrillators in schools save lives, but only about one-third of U.S. states require the devices in at least some schools, a new study reveals.
As of February 2016, researchers found that 33 states had no legislation requiring automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools.
The portable devices treat sudden cardiac arrest — the abrupt, unexpected loss of heart function. They deliver a shock meant to restore normal heart rhythm.
Defibrillators are easy to use by bystanders, but time is crucial. The chances of survival decrease 10 percent for every minute a shock is not applied, research has shown.
“This review should be used to inform the debate about expanding community-access AEDs into schools,” said study lead author Dr. Mark Sherrid.
Of the 17 states with AED requirements, only one requires them in public and private grade schools and colleges. Four require them in public grade schools and colleges, while two require them in public and private grade schools, but not colleges.
Of the remaining 10 states, nine require AEDs only in public grade schools, and one state requires them only in colleges, according to the report.
The study was published March 27 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“Installing AEDs in schools should include a plan for implementation in which all staff are trained in the use of the AED, integrated with cardiopulmonary resuscitation training,” Sherrid said in a journal news release. He’s a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
There are nearly 35 million public elementary and secondary students in states that have no AED requirements for schools, the researchers calculated.
The researchers also found that only five states offer funding for schools to buy AEDs.
Research has shown that two in 50 U.S. high schools can expect a sudden cardiac arrest event each year. There’s also evidence that defibrillators in schools and colleges are associated with increased survival for sudden cardiac arrest patients, the study researchers said.
In schools with defibrillators, survival rates of students with cardiac arrests and a shockable rhythm is 64 to 72 percent, the study authors said. AEDs in schools can also benefit teachers, coaches or sporting-event spectators who may suffer cardiac arrest on school grounds, the researchers added.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on sudden cardiac arrest.