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Ask The Doc – Should I bring a Defibrillator on my Coastal Cruise?

Dear Doc,

Request Opinion on defibrillator aboard 57 trawler heading for Bahamas, Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica, on to Mexico, San Diego. Crew includes 3 gents, late 50’s, one is diabetic Type 2, on medication. One female, healthy, 57 yrs. There is no O2 on board or defib at this time.

Thanks, Kate

Hello Kate,

I do not recommend defibrillators for ocean cruising boats. Defibrillators are life saving if someone suffers a heart attack and collapses in ventricular fibrillation- ultimately, survival depends on immediate advanced life support and hospitalization.  Defibrillators are only the first step in critical cardiac care, and while they are great in a metropolitan area  or in a location  where EMTs are immediately  available, they are unlikely to be of any benefit when out at sea or coastal cruising in remote areas. You would require a lot of equipment, drugs, and training to take care of a heart attack patient. I think all of your crew over 50 should have a good cardiac evaluation  and physical before  this long trip, including a stress test if there are any risk factors (diabetes, family history, etc). The diabetic should review his care with his doctor and  responsible crew.
When I teach to doctors, the cardiologist support this view. Hope this is helpful.

Have a safe trip- Michael Jacobs MD



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