Philips Healthcare, a division of the Dutch company Royal Philips Electronics, is recalling about 5,400 defibrillators which have a defective button. A defibrillator can be external to the patient’s body, such as the ones used by fire departments and emergency workers who bring them to the place where they are needed. They can also be internal, implanted in the patient’s body to monitor their heartbeat and correct its rhythm any time it goes into fibrillation.
What is Fibrillation?
Fibrillation is rapid and ineffective beating of the heart. It can be chronic (atrial fibrillation) and not immediately life-threatening, or acute (ventricular fibrillation) and definitely life-threatening.
An emergency worker would attach an external defibrillator to the heart patient by means of electrodes and the defibrillator would then monitor that person’s heartbeat. If it detected any abnormal rate such as ventricular defibrillation, it would alert the emergency worker, who would then press the “Shock” button to deliver an electric shock that would bring the heart out of the abnormal rhythm and restore it to normal.
The Defibrillator Defect
The On/Off or Shock button on the front panel may stick when pressed, which would render the defibrillator useless.
The defibrillators being recalled are external ones used by emergency responders treating people who have gone into cardiac arrest. The four models in the recall are called HeartStart FR2+ defibrillators. The model numbers are M5066A, M5067A, and M5068A and only serial numbers starting “A051” are affected. They were manufactured between May 2007 and January 2008. No other Philips defibrillators are involved in this recall.
No Reports of Patient Harm
So far, all the incidences of malfunction have happened during equipment testing rather than in any patient emergency situation. So nobody has yet been harmed, but the potential for deadly harm is there.
Philips has been contacting all their customers — hospitals, fire departments, and emergency medical facilities — to arrange for these defibrillators to be returned and replaced.
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