PITTSBURGH, Jan. 8 - The statistics are alarming. According to research reported in a 1996 issue of Circulation, a publication by the American Heart Association, it is estimated that one out of every 100,000 to 300,000 high school athletes will die from sudden cardiac death each year. The average age of collapse is 17, and a large percentage of these victims are male. The cause of sudden death in young competitive athletes varies, but most result from an undiagnosed congenital heart abnormality, which tragically provides few or no prior symptoms.To help reduce the mortality of sudden cardiac arrest in young students, school athletes and adults, the National Center for Early Defibrillation (NCED) at the University of Pittsburgh is hosting an issues forum, "Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the Schools," on Jan. 15 at the Marriott Bay Point Resort in Panama City Beach, Fla.
Parents of young sudden cardiac arrest victims; emergency medicine and cardiology experts; representatives of the American Heart Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the EMS for Children National Resource Center, the Association of School Nurses; AED manufacturers and national training organizations will convene from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to discuss ideas on how to start defibrillator programs for schools. Other topics on the agenda will include laws and liability issues, pre-participation screenings for teen athletes, funding for school-site AED programs, program implementation, training and data collection.
The forum is taking place the day before the annual meeting of the National Association of EMS Physicians.
"While schools are primarily a location for children and teens, they are also gathering places for adults and the elderly who may attend public meetings, evening classes and sporting events. It makes sense to have portable AEDs available in these public places because one never knows where or when sudden cardiac arrest may occur," said Vincent N. Mosesso, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and medical director of the NCED. "Additionally, CPR and defibrillator training should be integrated into school curricula so students can promote a culture of bystander response," added Dr. Mosesso.
"Our goal of this meeting is not to debate whether or not AEDs in schools are a good or bad idea. Instead, we want to meet with people who have successfully initiated school-site AED programs to see what has worked for them so we can formulate appropriate recommendations," said Mary Newman, executive director of NCED.
An AED is a small portable device that analyzes heart rhythms and advises the operator, through computerized voice instructions, when to push a button to deliver a potentially lifesaving shock to a victim in cardiac arrest. They are safe, effective and easy to use. Most AEDs today are no bigger than a laptop computer and weigh less than 10 pounds. Many experts agree that if a victim can receive a shock within a few minutes of collapse, there is a much better chance for survival.
Several parent advocates who launched successful school-site AED programs in memory of their children will attend the forum to share their personal stories. These parents represent Project Adam in Wisconsin, the Ken Heart Foundation in Ohio, the Louis J. Acompora Memorial Foundation in New York and the Gregory Moyer Defibrillator Fund in Pennsylvania.
In Pennsylvania, free AEDs were made available for schools through the Pennsylvania Department of Education Act 4 of 2001, which was signed by former Governor Tom Ridge, established a one-time AED program to assist schools with acquiring AEDs. As a result, each school district in Pennsylvania was offered two free AEDs and each intermediate unit and area vocational-technical school was offered one free AED. In addition, AEDs were made available to other school entities including non-public, private, charter and independent schools that met program requirements.
The National Center for Early Defibrillation was established in January 2000 by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's department of emergency medicine and its affiliated Center for Emergency Medicine of Western Pennsylvania. An independent, nonprofit resource and advocacy center dedicated to improving survival from sudden cardiac arrest, the NCED is the only national clearinghouse dedicated to providing comprehensive information on AEDs. NCED's mission is to foster optimal immediate care for victims of sudden cardiac arrest by providing leadership, expertise and information related to early defibrillation.
More information about NCED is available at www.early-defib.org, or by calling toll free 1-866-AED-INFO.
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