Intended for healthcare professionals


Spurious asystole with use of manual defibrillators

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 11 December 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1574

Users should not rely on monitoring through paddles, using any type of gel pad, once shocks have been delivered

  1. Douglas Chamberlain, honorary professor, University of Wales College of Medicine (
  1. Hove, East Sussex BN3 6DH
  2. 3M Medical-Surgical Division, 3M Health Care, 3M Center, St Paul, MN 55144-1000, USA

    EDITOR—Many readers will be aware that in 1998 a problem was identified in the United Kingdom that is highly relevant to some users of manual defibrillators. The original report (which led to a safety notice from the UK Medical Devices Agency1) related to the use of the Hewlett Packard Codemaster defibrillator in conjunction with gel pads. After one or more defibrillatory shocks an electrical “offset” could influence the monitor on the defibrillator to show a straight line (either continuous or broken), even when ventricular fibrillation was still present or had recurred This spurious asystole could last long enough to delay further shocks and could thereby hinder the prospects of a successful resuscitation. As far as I am aware, no definitive studies have yet been published to determine how widespread the problem might be, and how far other equipment may also be implicated.

    At the Royal Sussex County Hospital we have recently identified an exactly similar problem with a defibrillator from a …

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