BOSTON — Despite the life-saving benefits of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) if used properly, a recent study shows that one in five AEDs in the past decade have been recalled because of malfunction concerns. A report presented in mid-May at the Heart Rhythm Society's 27th Annual Scientific Sessions showed that the number of recalls is small compared to the number of lives saved through use of the devices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued 52 advisories for AEDs or their accessories between 1996 and 2005, mostly for electrical and software problems. The recalls affected 385,922 devices.

Another recent AED study shows that AEDs are cost-effective only in casinos, non-acute hospitals and nursing homes. In an analysis of 7,700 cardiac arrest incidents from 1995 to 2000, researchers compared the costs and life expectancy of treating patients with and without an on-site defibrillator.

“Less than 15 percent of cardiac arrests occur in public venues,” said Dr. Valerie J. De Maio, one of the researchers. “Public access defibrillation programs that target public venues are unlikely to lead to significant overall survival benefit.”

However, a growing number of health clubs are required by state legislators to have an AED on premises. Other businesses are also purchasing them. Since 1996, the number of AEDS distributed annually increased from 20,000 to 200,000.

The benefit of AEDS in clubs hits home when a club has an incident requiring an AED. At a recent Public Access Defibrillation Seminar, the Fire and Rescue Service in Montgomery County, AL, recognized health club employees who have used AEDs to save lives.