The American Heart Association has publicly announced its support for the increased availability of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in major public areas and gathering spots within local communities. These lifesaving defibrillation systems are designed specifically for use by non-medical personnel, and they use advanced computerized systems to determine if the prospective patient is, in fact, currently suffering from cardiac arrest. AEDs can be used along with CPR to provide maximum resuscitation benefits to the patient; this combination of techniques has proven to increase survival rates to a considerable degree when applied during the first few minutes after a sudden cardiac arrest begins.
Guidelines for Use
Understanding the best practices associated with AEDs and CPR for individuals who may be suffering from sudden cardiac arrest can save lives and provide valuable time for medical first responders to arrive on the scene. They are designed not to function unless they detect that the individual is currently experiencing the symptoms most closely associated with cardiac arrest. These symptoms include the following:
- Sudden unconsciousness
- No discernible pulse
- No detectable signs of breathing
Some patients may experience fainting spells, fatigue, dizziness, and breathing difficulties prior to a full-scale cardiac arrest incident; in other cases, however, patients may show no warning signs prior to their sudden cardiac arrest. In cases where some (or all) of the symptoms associated with cardiac arrest are present, those at the scene should perform CPR and begin the use of the defibrillator as soon as possible. At the same time, someone should call the emergency operator at 911 to request that immediate medical help be sent to the location. Ideally, someone on site will be qualified to perform CPR and to operate the defibrillation system; however, if no trained individual is at the location, the emergency operator can usually provide detailed instructions on CPR and on the proper use of the AED.
Procedures for Implementation
In many areas of the country, a prescription is required for the purchase and implementation of an AED system in public and private facilities. Many authorities, including the American Health Association, recommend that local emergency medical services providers be informed of the presence and location of the AED once it has been put into place. Additionally, staff members and other responsible parties should be trained to use the new equipment and to perform CPR in conjunction.