AEDs: Frequently Asked Questions

 


Q:

What is an AED?

A: AED stands for "Automated External Defibrillator." An AED is used to administer an electric shock to a person in cardiac arrest. AEDs are designed to allow non-medical personnel to save lives.
Q:

How does an AED work?

A: Two pads connected to the AED are placed on the patient's chest. A computer inside the AED analyzes the patient's heart rhythm and determines if an electric shock to the heart (defibrillation) is required to save the victim. If so, the AED uses voice instructions to guide the user through the defibrillation process.
Q:

Why are AEDs needed?

A: Because AEDs save lives. When a person experiences Sudden Cardiac Arrest ("SCA"), her heart's regular rhythm becomes chaotic or arrhythmic. Every minute that the heart is not beating lowers the odds of survival by 7% to 10%. After 10 minutes without defibrillation from an AED very few people survive.
Q:

Can't we just call 911?

A: 911 should be called in EVERY emergency. However, in the case of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, even a delay of a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. There are many reasons why an ambulance or other emergency response team might be unavoidably delayed in responding to an emergency (traffic, distance, inaccurate directions to the location, etc.) and each minute that passes reduces the victim's odds of survival by 10% or more.
Q:

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

A: Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart's normal heart rhythm suddenly becomes chaotic. The heart can no longer pump the blood effectively and the victim collapses, stops breathing, becomes unresponsive, and has no detectable pulse. When used on a victim of SCA, the AED administers a life-saving electric shock to the victim's heart that restores the heart's normal rhythm.
Q:

Is SCA the same as a heart attack?

A: No. Both a heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) and a sudden cardiac arrest have to do with the heart, but they are different problems. SCA is an electrical problem; a heart attack is a "plumbing" problem. Sometimes a heart attack, which may not itself be fatal, can trigger Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
Q:

Who can be an SCA victim?

A: Anyone, anytime. Children can have SCAs, teenagers can have SCAs, athletes can have SCAs, old people can have SCAs. Although the risk of SCA increases with age and in people with heart problems, a large percentage of the victims are people with no known risk factors.
Q:

What does the American Heart Association say about AEDs?

A: The AHA strongly supports having AEDs in public areas such as sports arenas, office complexes, schools, doctors' offices, shopping malls, airports, and other public places. The AHA also advocates that all police and fire and rescue vehicles be equipped with an AED.
Q:

What is the recommended treatment for SCA?

A: Defibrillation is the only treatment proven to restore a normal heart rhythm.
Q:

How much time do I have to respond if someone is in SCA?

A: Only minutes. Defibrillate within 3 minutes and the chances of survival are 70%. After 10 minutes, the chances of survival are negligible.
Q:

Doesn't CPR help?

A: Not by itself. By keeping oxygenated blood circulating through a victim's body, CPR potentially gives the victim a small amount of extra time until a defibrillator arrives. But SCA ultimately requires a shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. By using AEDs along with CPR, a victim's heartbeat can be restored and additional care given until the advanced emergency responders arrive. As a result, most CPR training now also includes AED training.
Q:

Is an AED hard to use?

A: No. AEDs are very easy to use. An AED can be used by practically anyone who has been shown what to do. In fact, there are a number of cases where people with no AED training at all have saved lives.
Q:

Can a non-medical person make a mistake when using an AED?

A: AEDs are safe to use by anyone who has been shown how to use them. The AEDs' voice prompts guide the rescuer through the steps involved in saving someone; for example, "apply pads to patient's bare chest" (the pads themselves have pictures of where they should be placed) and "press red shock button." In addition, safeguards have been built in to the unit precisely so that non-medical responders can't use the AED to shock someone who doesn't need a shock.
Q:

Can the AED itself make a mistake?

A: It is unlikely. Studies show that AEDs interpret the victim's heart rhythm more quickly and accurately than many trained emergency professionals. The Defibtech AED has an internal computer system that has been extensively tested on thousands of normal and irregular heart rhythms to ensure that it makes the correct decision to shock or not to shock. If a person is in sudden cardiac arrest, they will certainly die unless their heart beat is restored. If the victim is not in cardiac arrest, or has a rhythm that is untreatable with defibrillation, the AED will make that determination and not allow a user to administer a shock. In the rare event that a victim returns to a normal heartbeat after the AED has already advised a shock, our analysis system will recognize the change in the victim's heart rhythm and cancel the shock before it is administered.
Q:

Can I use the AED on children?

A: A recent report by the American Heart Association found that, in an emergency, adult electrodes can be used to defibrillate a child under the age of eight if no other alternative is available.
Q:

Can I be sued if I help someone suffering from SCA?

A: State and federal "Good Samaritan" laws cover users who, in good faith, attempt to save a person from death. To date, there are no known judgments against anyone who used an AED to save someone's life. However, there HAVE been cases where companies were successfully sued for failing to provide an AED.
Q:

What else do I need to do to keep my AED in working order?

A: The pad package must be replaced every two years. Otherwise, the AED performs automatic self-checks on a regular basis to test its operational readiness. If anything is not fully functional, the unit will make a loud chirp and flash a red light warning the owner that servicing may be required.
Q:

Can anyone buy an AED?

A: Anyone can buy an AED but under US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) rules, but most AEDs require a physician's prescription before the unit can be delivered.
Q:

What features should I look for in an AED?

A: Look for an AED that is: 1) easy for non-medical people to use, 2) technically reliable, and 3) reasonably priced.
Q:

Where can I get help implementing an AED program?

A: A detailed checklist to use in implementing an AED program can be read by clicking here. For more information call MomsTeam at 1-800-474-5201 or send an email to AED@MomsTeam.com.
Q:

What are the costs involved?

A: Each program has unique needs that impact the overall cost, from types of facilities to training requirements and mounting options.
Q:

Where should AEDs be placed?

A: The general rule of thumb is to place AEDs so that they can be reached within a three minute brisk walk from where the youth sports contests are being held. Consideration should be taken to account for any possible delays with elevators, complicated office layouts, and locked or secure doors.
Q:

Why do schools need AEDs?

A: Schools are gathering points for many community activities, sporting events, and school-related functions. Hundreds if not thousands of students, faculty, parents and visitors file through the halls of America's schools and sporting arenas each year and cardiac arrest can (and does) strike several of them, annually, without warning. Having an AED available to treat these victims enables schools and their employees to respond to those emergencies and save lives.
Q:

What kind of training is required?

A: Most of the training organizations around the country that teach CPR classes now offer additional training in the use of an AED. These courses typically take just a few hours and will provide basic proficiency for a user to perform a rescue. If someone is already trained in CPR, training on the use of the AED takes even less time.

Updated November 1, 2011

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