AED – A Real Life Saver
Every year, thousands of people die from heart attacks. With the largest population group in our society today being people over the age of 50, it is likely that this number will increase as time goes by.
In the time it takes you to read this article, cardiac arrest may have claimed another victim. Statistics show that thousands of Americans die of cardiac arrest every year. A large number of these deaths could have been prevented if someone had initiated the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) at the time of the emergency.
An AED is a device about the size of a laptop computer that analyzes the heart's rhythm for any abnormalities and, if necessary, directs the operator to deliver an electrical shock to the victim. This shock, called defibrillation, may help the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm of its own.
An AED is easy to operate. The unit produces voice prompts to instruct the operator. Once the machine is turned on, the operator will be prompted to apply two electrodes provided with the AED to the victim's chest. Once applied, the AED will begin to monitor the victim's heart rhythm. If a "shockable" rhythm is detected, the machine will charge itself and instruct the operator to stand clear of the victim and to press the shock button.
Sudden cardiac arrest is usually due to abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias, the vast majority of which are ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is a condition in which the heart's electrical impulses suddenly become chaotic, causing the heart to cease pumping blood effectively. Victims may collapse and quickly lose consciousness, often without warning. Unless a normal heart rhythm is restored, death will follow within a matter of minutes.
The cause of sudden cardiac arrest is not well understood. Many victims have no history of heart disease, or if heart disease is present, it has not functionally impaired them. A heart attack is the death of muscle tissue from loss of blood supply. Many victims have no prior symptoms. A heart attack can strike anyone, at any time, anywhere.
Today, more and more AED units are being purchased. The average cost of these units has dropped significantly in the past few years. An AED unit that originally cost over $5,000.00, can be purchased today for about $2,300.00.
The beauty of these units is their simplicity of operation. Battery operated; most units have the ability to check their own batteries. These units produce energy called joules, which range in output strength of 25 to 70 joules. AED units while designed primarily for adults, are available with attachments designed for children. They come with pediatric cables and chest pads.
CPR properly performed on a heart attack victim results in a survival rate of about 31%. The survival rate for heart attack victims placed on an AED unit is above 70%. Most manufacturers will even provide training for their units free of charge. AED units relatively inexpensive, easy to use and maintain and most importantly, they save lives.