MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) --School-based programs that teach CPR and the proper use of automated external defibrillators (AED) boost survival rates from sudden cardiac arrest, new research reveals.

A team led by Dr. Stuart Berger, a professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, says that it has found evidence of success in recent efforts to bring cardiac emergency skills to school settings, which are the weekday stomping ground for fully one-fifth of the American population (children and adults).

Berger and his colleagues are set to report their findings Monday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Chicago.

The team focused on two CPR-AED programs: "Project ADAM" in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and "Project SAVE" in Georgia.

Both programs are designed to educate students and staff about the signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, as well as effective treatment. The students learn how to resuscitate someone through manual chest compressions (CPR) and how to use an AED to give people in cardiac arrest an electric shock designed to jolt their heart back into a normal rhythm and possibly save their lives. Besides teaching students and staff these emergency procedures, such programs require drafting an emergency response plan in each school; creating and training a first-responder team; buying and maintaining an AED; and establishing emergency medical services.

Overall, the efforts seemed to have saved lives. Although 95 percent of people with cardiac arrest generally die before reaching the hospital, according to the American Heart Association, the researchers noted that among the 850 participating schools in Wisconsin, survival rates were 36 percent in cases where an AED was used.

In Pennsylvania, six adults and five children or adolescents have survived sudden cardiac arrest with assistance provided via that state's CPR-AED program.

And in Georgia, where a local program distributed CPR-AED information to all of the states 180 schools, 45 percent of the nearly 50 students and adults who suffered sudden cardiac arrest between 2004 and 2010 survived the experience.

Experts noted that research presented at meeting isn't subjected to the same type of scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed journals, but the researchers noted the results appear promising.

More information

For more on CPR, visit the American Heart Association.