Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
An AED is a medical device designed to quickly analyze the heart’s rhythm and safely deliver an electric shock, if needed. An AED will not shock someone if the heart rhythm is not life-threatening. Most AEDs guide its user through the rescue process with simple audible and visual prompts.
The heart has an internal electrical system that controls the rhythm of the heartbeat. Either a primary electrical heart condition or a structural heart condition which disrupts the heart’s normal electrical pathway can abruptly and without warning stop the heart from beating. These heart conditions can also cause the heart to beat so rapidly and chaotically that oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain ceases causing a person to lose consciousness in seconds. This rapid and chaotic heartbeat is called ventricular fibrillation (VF). Ventricular fibrillation is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest. Rapid treatment is critical and can be lifesaving. Unless an emergency shock using an AED is delivered to the heart to defibrillate it and restore its regular rhythm, death can occur within minutes. The use of an AED is the single most effective way to restore the normal rhythm of a heart quivering in ventricular fibrillation.
Following the vital links of the Cardiac Chain of Survival will lead to dramatic increases in the survival rates of cardiac arrest victims:
1) Early recognition of SCA
2) Early access to 911
3) Early CPR
4) Early defibrillation
5) Early advanced care
Why are they important?
Most occurrences of cardiac arrest in young people happen in public places. Immediate response to cardiac arrest with an AED can make the different between life and death. According to the American Heart Association, in out-of-hospital settings when defibrillation with an AED is administered within the first 3 to 5 minutes of a SCA victim’s collapse, an average survival rate of 74% can be achieved.
When a victim experiences SCA, every minute counts; for every minute that a victim goes without defibrillation, his/her chance for survival decreases by 7-10%. Having AEDs deployed at easily accessible locations can allow on-site trained individuals to deliver potentially life-saving defibrillation therapy quickly and effectively.
Rescuers must remember that if nothing is done for a cardiac arrest victim, he/she will most likely die. Equipping schools and other places where youth congregate with AEDs and training people how to use the technology properly can provide a youth struck by SCA another chance at life.
Public Access Defibrillation
Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) programs are based on the premise that the first person on the scene of a cardiac arrest is in the best position of saving a life IF the rescuer is equipped with an AED.
PAD programs require AEDs to be placed near locations where people work or gather. However, simply distributing AEDs is not enough. Successful programs actively recruit and enable for as many people as possible to acquire the skills and confidence needed to respond appropriately during a cardiac emergency. The first responders in a PAD program are made up of lay rescuers – those with minimal first aid skills. They learn these skills during a basic four-hour CPR & AED course. They fervently hope that they never have to use their skills but do know that unless they respond appropriately in the event that their coworker, the person waiting in front of them in a movie theater line, the parent watching his daughter’s soccer match, or their loved one collapses, he/she will most likely die.
Sixth-grade school children with moderate training can learn to use an AED to save the lives of SCA victims almost as quickly and efficiently as professional emergency medical personnel.
Statistics of Early Defibrillation For every minute that passes without defibrillation, a victim's chance for survival decreases 10 percent. Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) programs can increase survival rates for out-of-hospital SCA victims from below 5 percent to as high as 50 percent. Estimates state that widespread public availability and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) could save as many as 50,000 American lives each year. On average, it takes EMS teams in the U.S. 6 to 12 minutes to arrive on the scene. 90-95 percent of all SCA victims die. Documented AED programs have shown that survival rates can increase to 70 percent or more when an AED program is in place.
Good Samaritan laws have been passed in all fifty states that protect rescuers from civil immunity in cases where they volunteer to help. This legislation extends to the use of AEDs and applies as long as the rescuer is not paid to perform rescue skills as part of his job. Paramedics, EMTs, and emergency room personnel may not be covered by the same protection afforded to volunteer rescuers.
Good Samaritan laws differ from state to state. Some protect rescuers who use AEDs even if they never went through training while others require completion of a state or nationally recognized class. Other states not only protect the rescuer but also the physician who serves as medical director, the owner of the facility where the AED is located, and even the person or entity that provided training in AED and CPR skills. Since such variation exists, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the statutes that apply to your state.