Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA One of First Area Hospitals with Life-Saving Portable Defibrillator Program

January 22, 2004

Houston VA One of First Area Hospitals with Life-Saving Portable Defibrillator Program

Released: 2004/01/22

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From left, Alice Lark, R.N., Medical Care Line quality management coordinator, Salwa A. Shenaq, M.D., M.B.A., chief of MEDVAMC Anesthesiology Service, and Issam Mikati, M.D., chair of the MEDVAMC Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation Committee discuss the benefits of having Automated External Defibrillators strategically located throughout the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.
photo by Bobbi D. Gruner, MEDVAMC Public Affairs Officer

HOUSTON, TX - Recently, an elderly gentleman lost consciousness while driving, and crashed his car into a stone pillar holding up two sections of iron fence near the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC). A group of VA research physicians rushed to his aid and resuscitated him with the help of a newly installed Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

The MEDVAMC, formerly the Houston VA Medical Center, has now completed the installation of AEDs throughout the hospital and its outpatient clinic in Lufkin. This makes the MEDVAMC one of the first hospitals in the city of Houston to have such a program in place in compliance with recommendations of the American Heart Association and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation.

AEDs are user-friendly, heart-shocking devices that can be used by ordinary people like you and me to treat someone suffering an emergency cardiac arrest. An AED uses voice prompts to instruct the rescuer. Once the machine is turned on, the rescuer will be prompted to apply two electrodes provided with the AED to the victim's chest. Once applied, the AED will begin to monitor the victim's heart rhythm. If a "shockable" rhythm is detected, the machine will charge itself and instruct the rescuer to stand clear of the victim and to press the shock button.

"Cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of death in the United States. Among these deaths, sudden, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest claims approximately 1,000 lives each day in the U.S. alone. Most of these cardiac arrests are due to ventricular fibrillation. Though highly reversible with the rapid application of a defibrillator, ventricular fibrillation is otherwise fatal within minutes, even when cardiopulmonary resuscitation is provided immediately. The overall survival rate in the U.S. is estimated to be less than five percent," said Issam Mikati, M.D., chair of the MEDVAMC Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Committee.

"The critical issue is early defibrillation. Studies have shown that defibrillation within one minute of collapse results in 90 percent survival. There is, however, a 10 percent drop in survival with every minute of delay. This has lead to development of easy-to-use defibrillators that are directed at the layperson with no medical training. Numerous studies have shown that AED deployment in public places such as airports, casinos, schools, sports stadiums, were successful in saving lives," said Mikati.

"AEDs are now strategically located throughout the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, and the devices are also installed inside our VA police cars, in remote buildings on and off the campus including the engineering buildings, at VA's Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies, and at the Lufkin Outpatient Clinic," said Alice Lark, R.N., Medical Care Line quality management coordinator and a member of the CPR committee.

To ensure the effectiveness of the new devices, the MEDVAMC CPR Committee has also developed and coordinated AED training for all MEDVAMC employees. "The recent car accident outside our Almeda gate quickly drove home the importance of our AED program. Thanks to our new equipment and the efforts of trained Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center staff members, this rescued man will now have a second chance at his tomorrow," said Lark. --- by Alice Lark, R.N., Medical Care Line Quality Management Coordinator

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Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

04/21/04 08:25