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Can I Buy an AED?

Awareness of the risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is growing rapidly among Americans. As a result, everyone from the general public to safety officers in large public or corporate entities are considering the need for AEDs and investigating AED purchases. While larger organizations usually have requirements around (or an awareness of) which medical devices they can and cannot purchase, many smaller businesses or individuals may be asking themselves “Can I buy an AED? The answer to that question, generally speaking, is, yes!

Automated external defibrillators can be purchased by anyone as long as they are bought and managed in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

Typically, to purchase an AED you’ll need:

  • A prescription for the AED (most legitimate AED retailers can provide this)
  • Medical oversight
  • To register your AED
  • To properly maintain your AED in accordance with state and other laws

Should I Buy an AED?

In most cases, the answer to the question “Should I buy an AED?” is also a resounding YES, and with good reason.

1,000 Cardiac Arrests Each Day

The fact is, almost 1,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting each day in the US, and nearly 90% of these events are fatal. Sadly, many people die suddenly as a result of SCA–at home, in the workplace, or in public settings–while going about their everyday lives. The need for rapid defibrillation from an AED unit in case of SCA is startling. The period of time between onset of SCA and likely death is a matter of minutes. The need for rapid treatment in the place the SCA occurs cannot be overstated!

Getting to Know the Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

In the late 20th century, those in medical research began to seek means for immediate treatment of sudden cardiac arrest. They reasoned that, if the advanced medical treatments used in hospitals could be made available for immediate use by any person with first aid training, the outcomes for hundreds of victims could be dramatically improved. The likely severe mental and physical impairment that can result from an SCA event could be largely avoided, and a potentially deadly scenario turned into one of survival. The question became, “What treatments are crucial to sustain the life of an SCA victim?”

The AED is Born

ZOLL AED Plus AED

Fortunately, growth in medical treatment of heart disease had included the development of the automated external defibrillator, as well as techniques in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (Cardiology’s 10 Greatest Discoveries of the 20th Century. National Institute of Health Library of Medicine). These two discoveries lent themselves well to being deployed for first aid in case of sudden cardiac arrest.

CPR Sustains Life

While this article focuses on the AED, it would be remiss if CPR were not mentioned first in the context of first aid for heart emergencies. CPR is crucial to supply blood to the brain and other organs until the heart can be restarted; it must begin immediately upon discerning that a person has collapsed due to SCA. In fact, to perform CPR effectively is so important that many of today’s high quality AEDs, such as the ZOLL AED 3, include “real time” user guidance in CPR. Auditory and visual cues are woven into the instructions provided by these devices in when the AED is deployed!

The AED Unit Restarts the Heart

However, it is the AED unit, not CPR, that restarts the heart. That is, only defibrillation can stop the heart from quivering by giving it a needed shock, allowing it to beat again according to its proper rhythm. (The AED device analyzes the heart and shocks it only if needed via special electrode pads applied to the victim’s skin.) With the technological advances in electronics, batteries, and microprocessors made in the last 50 years, It was simply a matter of time for AEDs to be developed for out-of-hospital emergency use. Used in tandem, CPR and AED deployment were to become the two crucial links in the cardiac arrest chain of survival.

From Hospital Professional to Lay Public Use

It is easy to be intimidated by the phrase “automated external defibrillator“, not to mention talk of its sophisticated design and life-saving medical purpose. It would seem that an AED unit is something beyond the understanding and use of most people, and AEDs must therefore be operated only with the medical direction of hospital professionals. “Automated external defibrillator” sounds very high-tech, and thus we tend to think AED use is not meant for the average lay-person without medical training.

Even if aware of the purpose of an AED, many lay people still believe that such a device is only to be carried by emergency medical services, police and fire personnel, sports trainers and the like as part of their heart attack first aid kit. Fortunately, public awareness regarding the AED is changing.

SCA and Treatment a National Issue

AED machines now used for out-of-hospital treatment of an SCA victim were little known among the majority of the citizenry even just a decade ago. However, the efforts of leaders in the field of cardiology, with the cooperation of government agencies such as the FDA, and organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, have brought increasing public recognition of the life-saving role of the AED.

American Red Cross Logo from redcross.org

This has included steps to make our citizens aware of SCA, to make widespread the availability of AEDs, and to educate young and old in proper use of these devices. There are now AED laws in place throughout the United States and other countries. Among other requirements, these laws:

  • encourage bystanders to act by protecting the rescuer from liability via federal and state Good Samaritan laws);
  • increase the availability of AEDs in public places;
  • require AEDs be placed in certain settings depending on location or nature of population, (e.g.: schools, pools, workplaces, cruise ships, etc;
  • control defibrillator production and distribution
    • Only an AED approved by the Food and Drug Administration can be sold;
    • Guidelines approved for an AED device must be followed by manufacturers;
    • In addition to the FDA, states now have laws for a physician’s prescription);
  • provide for coordination of efforts between medical professionals, government officials, educators, etc. to provide:
    • placement,
    • maintenance,
    • training, and
    • program management of defibrillators.

Don’t Be Intimidated by an AED

The “hands off” perception of automated external defibrillators may have been accurate years ago, but this is no longer the case. The average lay person should not be “put off” by the life or death nature of a heart attack or SCA collapse, but be willing to get involved in a rescue. Nor should we let the “high-tech” nature of the AED as a medical device make us think it is beyond us to use it.

In the case of the defibrillator, its sophistication is in large part born of the need for quick on-site defibrillation to be performed by a lay person, most often in the private home by a family member. To become confident in AED use, anyone can take advantage of AED courses offered by various agencies and vendors. Relatives of high risk individuals, in addition to consulting with the sufferer’ physician, should definitely learn how to use a defibrillator confidently and efficiently.

AED Now Well Established in First Aid

Over time AED units have become a fixture in the world of first aid devices. They are the singular device that can restart a heart in sudden cardiac arrest. They have become ever more sophisticated in their capability to assist in SCA rescue, providing step-by-step guidance in order to:

1) analyze the heart rhythm and deliver shock(s) as needed, as well as

2) give real-time feedback for effective hands-on CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

These days, AED features include real-time graphic feedback regarding the quality of CPR being given (i.e., frequency and depth of chest compressions. CPR is crucial to sustain life, but only the AED can deliver a shock to save the victim. It will only do so after it has analyzed current heart function and detected ventricular fibrillation (VF),or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). The user is guided with voice instructions on what to do, and protected against error every step of the way in completing the rescue process.

Ultimately anyone, anytime, anyplace should be confident in recognizing SCA and responding by deploying an AED in the “Cardiac Arrest Chain of Survival” (American Heart Association). If you make the decision to purchase an AED, you take an important step in fighting injury and death due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Which AED Should I buy?

If you are ready to purchase an AED, you might be wondering which AED you should buy. We’d recommend taking a look at our AED buying guide to learn more about different units and features. We’ve also included a handful of important data points related to purchasing an AED below.

Helpful Tips & Information for Buying an AED

  • A New AED can cost anywhere from about $1,200.00 to well over $3,000.00. Prices vary depending on features, needed durability (some AEDs will perform better outdoors or where they are at risk of elemental exposure), and other factors.
  • Grants, refurbished equipment, and special vendor offers can lower the cost of an AED.
  • A high-quality device can be purchased without buying extra “ruggedness” or “features”.
  • Consider not only the initial cost to purchase, but also needed device accessories and long-term cost to own (e.g.: batteries and pads must be replaced regularly according to their expiration dates). You’ll also want to find out which items for the specific AED you purchase need to be replaced after use.
  • Check federal and state laws for your location before purchasing AEDs. Some are very specific regarding prescription, location, maintenance, etc.
  • Match the AED to your situation; talk to a physician, an EMT, a nurse, professor, health teacher and/or sports trainer about what you truly need for yourself or your organization. If you like to keep things simple, AED packages are an excellent option.
  • There are many different AED models; get direct advice from the vendor experts at several reputable sources.

AED Program Management is Crucial

  • Make an ongoing maintenance plan and stick to it.
  • Appoint a person to take that responsibility.
  • Keep extra batteries and pads; check performance at least monthly.
  • Remember! A missing or neglected AED can fail to work and make you liable, while a quality device in ready condition can save lives!

 

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