Feature: AEDs save lives if bystanders know how to use them

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In a survey conducted by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), people were asked how they would respond if they witnessed a sudden cardiac arrest event and results showed 42 percent would call 911 and wait for emergency personnel to respond, 35 percent would administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and only 16 percent would use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

"There is some barrier that impels bystanders to feel uncomfortable with AEDs," Kenneth Zide, MD, an electrophysiologist at the Bradenton Cardiology Center in Brandenton, Fla., told Cardiovascular Business News. "They don't realize that AEDs are automated. The machines only treat two rhythms: ventricular tachycardia or ventricular defibrillation. If the AED sees one of these, it will advise the bystander to give a shock."

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Survey was conducted by Kelton Research between August 29 and Sept. 8, using an email invitation and an online survey. The sample size was 1,000 respondents.

More than 250,000 deaths occur each year as a result of sudden cardiac arrest and many of these deaths could be prevented with the immediate use of an AED, according to the HRS.

Recently revised guidelines suggest that bystanders should call 911 and continue CPR until first responders arrive. However, if several bystanders are present, one should use an AED if it is available.

"AEDs were developed and are widely dispersed in public places for the sole purpose of saving lives," said Zide. "If the average person is not familiar with the device and is uncomfortable using it in an emergency situation, then it does not serve its purpose."

Zide said the cardiology community does a good job of identifying patients with known risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest. "But most people who experience sudden death don't have known risk factors. Most of the time, sudden death is a sentinel event and that is the challenge."

He suggested that hospitals and the cardiology community do more outreach training on the use of AEDs.