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The obstacles to maximising the impact of public access defibrillation: an assessment of the dispatch mechanism for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
  1. K J Cairns1,
  2. A J Hamilton2,
  3. A H Marshall1,
  4. M J Moore2,
  5. A A J Adgey2,
  6. F Kee3
  1. 1
    Centre for Statistical Science and Operational Research (CenSSOR), Sir David Bates Building, Queen’s University Belfast, UK
  2. 2
    Regional Medical Cardiology Centre, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, UK
  3. 3
    Centre for Clinical and Population Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Karen J Cairns, Statistician, Centre for Statistical Science and Operational Research (CenSSOR), Room 01.008, Sir David Bates Building, Queen’s University Belfast, UK, BT7 1NN; k.cairns{at}


Objectives: To determine the diagnostic accuracy of advanced medical priority dispatch system (AMPDS) software used to dispatch public access defibrillation first responders to out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA).

Design: All true OHCA events in North and West Belfast in 2004 were prospectively collated. This was achieved by a comprehensive search of all manually completed Patient Report Forms compiled by paramedics, together with autopsy reports, death certificates and medical records. The dispatch coding of all emergency calls by AMPDS software was also obtained for the same time period and region, and a comparison was made between these two datasets.

Setting: A single urban ambulance control centre in Northern Ireland.

Population: All 238 individuals with a presumed or actual OHCA in the North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust population of 138 591 (2001 Census), as defined by the Utstein Criteria.

Main outcome measures: The accurate dispatch of an emergency ambulance to a true OHCA.

Results: The sensitivity of the dispatch mechanism for detecting OHCA was 68.9% (115/167, 95% confidence interval (CI) 61.3% to 75.8%). However, the sensitivity for arrests with ventricular fibrillation (VF) was 44.4% (12/27) with sensitivity for witnessed VF of 47.1% (8/17). The positive predictive value was 63.5% (115/181, 95% CI 56.1% to 70.6%).

Conclusions: The sensitivity of this dispatch process for cardiac arrest is moderate and will constrain the effectiveness of Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) schemes which utilise it.

Trial registration: ISRCTN 07286796.

  • emergency medicine
  • cardiac arrest
  • public access defibrillation
  • dispatch mechanism
  • sensitivity

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Funding: This work was funded by the Research and Development Office of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland and the British Heart Foundation. The funding agencies did not participate in the study design, collection, analysis or writing of the manuscript. Dr KJ Cairns is funded by a RCUK Academic Fellowship.

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