Introduction: The importance of early defibrillation in improving outcomes and reducing morbidity following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest underscores the importance of examining novel approaches to treatment access. The increasing evidence to support the importance of early defibrillation has increased attention on the potential for lay responders to deliver this therapy.
Aim: This paper seeks to critically review the literature that evaluates the impact of lay responder defibrillator programs on survival to hospital discharge following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the adult population.
Method: The electronic databases, Medline and CINAHL, were searched using keywords including; "first responder", "lay responder", "defibrillation" and "cardiac arrest". The reference lists of retrieved articles and the Internet were also searched. Articles were included in the review if they reported primary data, in the English language, which described the effect of a lay responder defibrillation program on survival to hospital discharge from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in adults.
Results: Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. The small number of published studies, heterogeneity of study populations and study outcome methods prohibited formal meta-analysis. Therefore, narrative analysis was undertaken. Studies included in this report provided inconsistent findings in relation to survival to hospital discharge following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Conclusion: Although there are limited data, the role of the lay responder appears promising in improving the outcome from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest following early defibrillation. Despite the inherent methodological difficulties in studying this population, future research should address outcomes related to morbidity, mortality and cost-effectiveness.