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Nov 03, 2011

Timely Use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) Saves Lives

Portable AEDs help save more than 1,000 lives a year.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.  If not immediately treated with a defibrillator, sending an electrical shock to the heart to restore normal heart rhythm, chances of survival are slim. In fact, with every minute that passes after sudden cardiac arrest, chances of survival drop by 7% — and after ten minutes, survival is highly unlikely.

What most people may not realize, however, is that everyday people hold the key to saving the lives of sudden cardiac arrest patients. Medical devices known as Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are becoming widespread – now found in many public places, such as shopping malls, airports and hotels. These portable machines can be used in an emergency by anyone, whether trained or untrained, to provide immediate treatment for individuals experiencing cardiac arrest. And for the hundreds of thousands Americans experiencing sudden cardiac arrest each year, AED use could spell the difference between life and death.

So just how effective are AEDs, even when used by inexperienced rescuers? A recent study published by the American Heart Association’s medical journal, Circulation, reported that onsite AEDs save 3.6 lives per 1 million inhabitants — that’s more than 1,000 lives saved each year by AEDs in the United States. Researchers analyzed data collected from nearly 3,000 patients experiencing sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital between 2006 and 2009. Although onsite AEDs were used in only 128 of these cases, those with onsite AED use received their first shock within 4.1 minutes, in comparison with 11 minutes with no AED use, which increased chances of survival by nearly 3 times.

Based on results, this study illustrates the need for an increased number of AEDs in public places nationwide — a goal that many organizations like Mended Hearts are helping to achieve. Mended Hearts is an organization dedicated to inspiring hope in heart disease patients and their families by connecting them to each other and creating community with medical professionals. By educating the public about AED use and increasing placement of these devices, individuals can become empowered to help save lives, and those experiencing cardiac arrest will be in good hands, with significantly greater chances of survival.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is an automated external defibrillator (AED) and how does it work?

  • An AED is a portable device that automatically diagnoses life threatening cardiac conditions, such as sudden cardiac arrest, and can treat individuals through defibrillation. By applying electrical shocks to the heart, AEDs help restore regular heart rhythm and allow for blood and oxygen flow to the heart, brain and body.
  • Isn't it better to wait for medical professionals to treat patients with heart conditions?

  • During sudden cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease with every minute that passes, and most die before ever reaching the hospital. That’s why AEDs are so important—not only do they provide immediate treatment during sudden cardiac arrest, they enable bystanders to provide this treatment while waiting for medical professionals to arrive.