In the past few years, it has become common to see automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) securely mounted to the walls of office receptions areas, office corridors, supermarkets, arenas, movie theaters, and other densely populated venues. Having written about their life-saving contributions in The McMorrow Report about five years ago, it was pleasing to see their prevalence grow. My supermarket installed one, and in the first year, a customer was saved by it before paramedics arrived.
An automated external defibrillator or AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient, and is able to treat them through defibrillation, the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm.
AED vendors are also exhibitors at facilities management industry trade shows, and while that is encouraging, new research indicates that staff/employee training is insufficient.
A Dutch study published online on February 1st in Annals of Emergency Medicine reports that less than half (47 percent) of people in a public place with access to an automatic external defibrillator (AED) would be willing to use it, with more than half (53 percent) unable even to recognize one (“Public Access Defibrillation: Time to Access the Public”).
“An AED is only beneficial if a bystander is willing to use it when someone is in cardiac arrest,” said lead study author Patrick Schober, MD, Ph.D., of V.U. University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “AEDs are increasingly available in public places, such as the train station where we conducted our survey. However, in our study, only 28 percent of participants correctly identified the AED, knew its purpose and expressed a willingness to use it.”
Just over one-third (34 percent) of participants stated that anyone is allowed to use an AED, with nearly half (49 percent) believing only trained personnel may use it. The most frequently mentioned reason given for not using an AED was not knowing how it works (69 percent), followed by fear of harming the victim (14 percent). Only 6 percent of study participants spontaneously mentioned AEDs in response to a question about what should be done as quickly as possible for someone suspected of being in cardiac arrest.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of mortality in North America and Europe. Odds of survival decline by 7 to 10 percent per minute of delay in defibrillation. AED application by bystanders saves only 1.4 lives per one million people in North America.
“AEDs are actually very easy to use, but it is obvious that the public has not gotten that message,” said Dr. Schober. “Only a minority of individuals demonstrated both knowledge and willingness to operate an AED. Wide-scale public information campaigns are an important next step to exploit the lifesavings potential of public AEDs.”
If your corporation or organization has installed AEDs, it is advisable to ask the vendor or community paramedics to provide a tutorial to facilities management and human resources professionals, and then host an AED fire drill for all employees.