We were disappointed by the Sept. 9 news story "Need for Home Defibrillators Questioned." The National Center for Early Defibrillation supports automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for personal use because:

* Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States and occurs most often in the home.

* Many deaths from cardiac arrest could be prevented if victims could be treated with defibrillators within the first few minutes of collapse.

* While some individuals at high risk for cardiac arrest can be identified in advance and may bene- fit from implantable cardioverter defibrillator therapy, most cases of cardiac arrest are unpredictable, and victims need to be treated rapidly.

* AEDs are safe and can be used effectively by lay people. Savvy consumers who understand these facts and the importance of calling 911 immediately whenever emergencies occur and who want to protect their families and neighbors in the event of sudden cardiac emergencies should be able to buy AEDs for their homes without a prescription, just as they would other home safety equipment such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.

MARY M. NEWMAN

Executive Director

VINCENT N. MOSESSO JR.

Medical Director

National Center for Early Defibrillation

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

The National Center for Early Defibrillation receives funding from seven companies that make and market defibrillators, as well as from four foundations and four national training organizations.

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The Sept. 9 news story detailed the efforts by medical equipment manufacturers to convince the public that no home should be without a defibrillator.

Missing, however, was the first step in preventing sudden cardiac death: an EKG and, where indi- cated, an echocardiogram. Heart defects, considered a leading cause of sudden cardiac death, usually can be detected by these relatively routine and certainly less costly tests.

If such testing picks up problems, cardiologists can prescribe proper treatment, and an automated external defibrillator could be an option. But equipping every home with one is an unnecessary response to an ad campaign.

CAROL N. BOSLET

Annapolis