Many Homes Can and Should Have an Automated External Defibrillator!
Yes! you can have a personal use AED, and in many cases a family should have a home AED. Those with cardiac conditions will likely benefit from having a personal AED device. It can make all the difference in a potentially life-or-death cardiac event.
AEDs Help Keep At-Risk Patients at Home
Technological advances in medicine are making it possible for those with various conditions to remain in the home longer. One of the most anxiety-ridden health conditions is being at risk of a heart-related emergency. Fortunately, with the development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the invention of the automated external defibrillator (AED), a high level of first aid care for those suffering irregular heart rhythms can now be provided at home by most any family member until a professional arrives.
There is naturally an underlying anxiety that goes with having a heart condition, but through its very presence, an AED device can relieve much of that anxiousness. It is beneficial to have proper CPR training and AED training, as well as a home AED available in case of a heart emergency. This specific training, along with an AED unit, improves the quality of emergency response for all in the home. Stress for the whole family is reduced just by knowing there is a powerful medical tool at hand. The family can be more at ease when a life-saving plan of response is in place should a sudden arrest event occur!
Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest
What is SCA?
Due to electrical issues called ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, the heart may stop pumping blood. This is called “sudden cardiac arrest” (SCA), an emergency in which a victim’s heart suddenly stops beating, or beats erratically. The victim collapses, loses consciousness, and has an extremely light, thready, and erratic pulse if any pulse at all. With little or no blood moving through the body, cells are left without needed oxygen. Because of the lack of oxygen to the victim’s cells, SCA becomes potentially more fatal with each passing moment. This is where the AED comes into play. Odds of survival are extremely low when SCA occurs and no AED device is immediately available.
Immediate Action in case of SCA is a Must
It is critical to understand the life-or-death urgency of action should the time come to perform CPR and deploy a portable automated external defibrillator. It is because of the virtually immediate likelihood of death when someone collapses with the symptoms of SCA that protocols with CPR and the AED embedded in them have been developed. These protocols are intended for use by lay rescuers in response to the need for quick action by anyone present to save a life when a victim goes down. While emergency services are to be contacted as soon as possible, there simply is not time to wait until those emergency services arrive without taking the life-saving measures of delivering chest compressions/rescue breathing and deploying an automated external defibrillator.
Responding with CPR and AED:
- Call 911
- Start CPR
- As soon as the AED is brought to the scene, attach the electrode pads to the person’s chest, following the instructions given by the AED. AEDs give audio and visual instructions for a rescue as soon as they are activated, including CPR guidance and AED deployment.
- The AED will measure the heart’s rhythm and determine if a shock is needed. A semi-automatic AED will instruct you to push the shock button while an automatic AED will administer the shock without action needed by you
- This process continues until an emergency professional arrives.
- Act confidently, remember: the fully automatic AED defibrillator provides CPR guidance and coaching, as well as an automatic shock (or instruction to press the shock button). You cannot accidentally shock someone with an AED.
SCA Protocol–Chain of Survival
The chain of survival protocol originated in the 1980’s and was further developed by the American Heart Association in the years following. It guides rescuers in the most effective response if and when cardiac arrests occur due to ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia. The chain concept now appears in various forms, but always includes:
Links in the Chain of Survival
- An immediate call for help,
- EMT treatment and transport
- Careful convalescence (in-hospital and after the hospital stay).
Deciding to Purchase an AED Defibrillator
It is not necessary for every home to have an AED. Though SCA can happen to anyone at any age even if there is no known heart disease. Health conditions of family members along with various external factors should be considered when purchasing home AED devices. Professional medical advice as well as the advice of knowledgeable sales representatives should be depended upon in making decisions regarding personal use and home AEDs.
Points to Consider
Known coronary conditions are the main indicator that there is risk of SCA, making it desirable to have an AED for home emergencies. Because SCA will so often occur in those with coronary disease, the same factors that are linked to cardiac disease are also linked to SCA. If any of the following are true in the family, consider buying an AED for home:
General Home Factors
- The home has a swimming pool
- Children are watched or frequently baby sat at the home
- Individuals within the home are highly active
- The home is geographically far from a hospital or other emergency response
- The home has elderly individuals who live with adult children
General SCA Risk factors
- A family history of coronary artery disease
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- An inactive lifestyle
Specific Heart conditions that can lead to SCA
A Life-threatening arrhythmia which needs a defibrillator usually occurs when a person has a pre-existing heart condition, including:
- Coronary heart/artery disease. Reduced blood flow to the heart due to arteries clogged with cholesterol and other deposits.
- Congenital (existing at birth) abnormal heart formation such as cardiomyopathy, or abnormal cardiac rhythms.
- Heart attack, triggered as the attack occurs, or later due to electrical short circuits around heart-attack related scar tissue.
- Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy). This occurs primarily when your heart’s muscular walls stretch and enlarge or thicken, distorting the heart muscle. Caused by viral infections reaching the heart, congenital conditions, or even some cancer treatments.
- Valvular heart disease. Leaking or narrowing of heart valves can also lead to stretching or thickening of the heart muscle.
- Electrical problems in the heart not related to heart structure or disease. (EG: Brugada syndrome, long QT syndrome).
Other factors that might increase the likelihood of sudden cardiac arrest include:
- A previous episode of personal, or family history of, cardiac arrest
- A previous heart attack
- A personal or family history of other forms of heart failure or disease, such as heart rhythm disorders, congenital heart defects, and cardiomyopathy
- Growing older
- Being male
- Using illegal drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines
- Nutritional imbalance, such as low potassium or magnesium levels
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Chronic kidney disease
If you are a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, you are at higher risk of a repeat event. To prevent future episodes your healthcare provider will want to do tests to figure out what caused your cardiac event. Tests may include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).
- Heart MRI.
- Blood tests to check electrolytes involved in your heart’s electrical conduction.
- Ambulatory monitoring.
- Cardiac catheterization.
- Electrophysiology study.
CPR and AED Training is Necessary
AED training is needed if there is to be an AED purchase. There is much to learn in order to be confident and proficient in performing an effective rescue with the best cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques and proper use of at home defibrillators. While automated external defibrillators are designed for lay use, a fast and effective rescue depends greatly on the training of the rescuer.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to receive needed training, both online and in person. Online training may be necessary in some circumstances and much can be gained online. However, there is no comparison with hands-on experience when it comes to learning emergency procedures. This is especially true of training in which there is an element of urgency due to the brief few minutes available to save a collapsed victim. Getting experience with various automated external defibrillators is essential. You will practice enacting the Chain of Survival, including:
- Recognizing symptoms of SCA and checking on the victim
- Remembering to (have someone) call for help
- Activating the AED
- Giving chest compressions with CPR coaching
- Applying training pads (both adult and pediatric pads) to a model patient’s chest
- Clearing for shock and waiting (if AED is fully automatic) or operating shock button
- Continuing CPR/AED process to arrival of EMT
- Becoming aware of the importance of post-event care, both in-hospital and at home
It is good to know that once trained and in possession of an AED for home use, you can be confident and assertive if an SCA rescue is needed. You can also rest assured as you go about your daily life knowing you are fully prepared whenever or wherever an SCA event might occur. You will have added value as a citizen, and Good Samaritan laws exist to protect you as you work to help those around you.
What is the Best AED for You?
Here are some pointers as you shop for the best AED:
Be sure to get professional advice from doctors, trained EMT personnel, and expert salespeople as you make your decision. Find a device that fits your situation. If cost is an issue, refurbished units can be bought. Just make sure to get an AED approved by the FDA and that it has a verifiable remaining warranty, new accessories, etc. Be advised that you will likely need a prescription for your AED. At Heartsmart, this prescription is provided for you.
Here are some of the best AEDs.
- Defibtech Lifeline
- Heartsine Samaritan AED
- *Philips AED (Philips Heartstart Onsite)
- Cardiac Science AED
- Physio Control
*Note: The Philips “HeartStart Onsite” AED needs no prescription.
Be Ready to Save a Life!
Possible Sudden cardiac death need no longer burden heart victims, family members, and home caregivers with a sense of hopelessness if cardiac arrest occurs. Keeping a home AED at hand will assist any rescuer to begin CPR to keep blood moving, deploy the defibrillator to deliver any needed electric shock, restore a heart’s normal rhythm, and prevent a sad death!