‘Groundbreaking’ Study Helped Increase Survival Rates Of Sudden Cardiac Arrests In Casinos

Written By Stephanie Loder on August 15, 2023
automatic external defibrillator on a dark wall

What are the odds that you stand a better chance of surviving a heart attack in a casino than anywhere else outside of a hospital?

According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, it’s a good bet.

The study reported that a patient needs to get life-saving defibrillation from an AED (automatic external defibrillator) within two minutes of suffering a heart attack. AEDs are small, portable units that can diagnose and treat cardiac arrhythmias.

Because Atlantic City casinos have AEDs and trained personnel, the odds of surviving are in your favor if the attack happens at a casino.

“Cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, at any time, and the chances of survival decrease with each passing minute,” said Mark Giannantonio, president and CEO of Resorts Atlantic City and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ).

“AEDs are important because they significantly increase survival chances when they are used. They are also designed to help everyday people respond to extraordinary situations with confidence.”

Keep an eye out for those AEDs

Resorts Atlantic City has six AEDs spread throughout the property, Giannantonio said.

When an incident occurs that requires the use of an AED, they are used by our staff to assist an individual in need, he said.

“I believe this is the case for all of the Atlantic City Casinos.”

The next time you’re in a public space like a casino, glance around and see if you can locate an AED. Typically, they are in white boxes that are mounted to the wall and include the symbol of a red heart emblazoned with a white lightning bolt. If you see someone in need, you don’t need a medical background because the AED instructions are given via a recorded voice.

Fast response can increase survival rate astronomically

According to the 2000 New England Journal of Medicine study, researchers reported improved patient outcomes that were attributed to Las Vegas casino security offices trained to use AEDs.

When the first defibrillation was administered within three minutes of a witnessed collapse, the study reported that the survival rate was nearly 75%.

A quick shock from an AED can be a lifesaver.

The medical journal study was among a prospective series of cases of sudden cardiac arrest in casinos. Casino security officers were instructed in the use of automated external defibrillators.

The locations of AEDs stored in the casinos were chosen to make possible a target of three minutes or less from collapse to the first defibrillation. The primary outcome was survival to discharge from the hospital, according to the study.

You don’t have to be a medical pro to use AEDs – just timely

The conclusion of the study: Rapid defibrillation by nonmedical personnel using an automated external defibrillator can improve survival after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation. Intervals of no more than three minutes from collapse to defibrillation are necessary to achieve the highest survival rates.

Dr. Michael G. Link, FACC Cardiac Electrophysiologist, the Heart & Lung Institute at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, said having automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in casino hotels and other public places is crucial because defibrillation is the most important objective of treating a victim of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

“AEDs are so valuable in this scenario because they are easy for a non-clinical person to use. The device can reliably distinguish VF from other forms of pulseless arrest and automatically decide whether a shock is needed. If it is needed, the device begins charging on its own,” Link said.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, Link said, “was groundbreaking because it showed over 20 years ago that in a high surveillance environment with minimally trained personnel (a casino), they were able to move a historically 5% survival rate to over 50% survival.

“Additionally, I have heard many stories of Atlantic City casino security personnel delivering fantastic high-quality CPR around the time of the defibrillation, which is the other key component of first aid for a SCA victim. And of course, their focus on dialing 911 immediately for signs of cardiac arrest has been life-saving as well.”

Casinos: ‘Safest place in America to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest’

Since 2002, the AtlantiCare Foundation has placed more than 400 AEDs in the community on behalf of the Heart & Lung Institute through its Heart Heroes Matching Funds Program.

Recipients in Atlantic City have included the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority; the city’s Special Improvement District, Police Department, City Hall, and Board of Education; and many other organizations and community partners that serve the Atlantic City community.

In 2006, Emergency Room physician Dr. Bryan Bledsoe told the Wall Street Journal: “The safest place in America to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest is in a casino.”

According to the study, victims need to get life-saving defibrillation within two minutes of suffering a heart attack. That’s why the odds of survival are better if that heart attack happens at a casino since each Atlantic City casino has locations for AEDs.

The use of automated external defibrillators by persons other than paramedics and emergency medical technicians is advocated by the American Heart Association and other organizations.

If you’re traveling to a casino, you’ll also see AEDs in airports, malls and other public areas. Even someone with little or no training can use the devices, which only deliver a shock when they sense an abnormal rhythm.

But experienced first responder or not, whoever is going to help the victim needs to have an AED close by when someone collapses.

And in the meantime, whether you like slot machines or prefer blackjack, make sure you’ve got a healthy heart before you start gambling. Think about how, if you manage to hit a casino jackpot, you’ll want to enjoy those winnings.

Photo by PlayNJ
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Stephanie Loder

Stephanie Loder is a freelance writer for PlayNJ. She provides coverage of New Jersey's Atlantic City casinos while also focusing on the beach, boardwalk, and special gaming events. Prior to writing for PlayNJ, she covered Atlantic City government, breaking news, and casinos for The Press of Atlantic City in Pleasantville, N.J.

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