Lifesaving Medical Devices Typically Nowhere in Sight When Heart Problems Strike

Lifesaving Medical Devices Typically Nowhere in Sight When Heart Problems StrikeAutomated external defibrillators (AEDs), the potentially lifesaving devices used to treat cardiac arrest, are often not nearby when the emergency medical condition occurs in people in public places, a new study has found.

According to the National Library of Medicine, cardiac arrest has several underlying causes, including coronary heart disease, heart attack, electrocution, drowning or choking. Without immediate medical attention, the person will die from cardiac arrest within minutes.

If early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are delivered within minutes, the chances of survival are greatly increased. AEDs work by delivering electrical shocks to the heart to restore it back to its normal rhythm.

HealthDay reports that the study's results give insight into why the survival rate of cardiac arrest is still below 10 percent across most of the U.S., despite new education programs that seek to raise awareness of the lifesaving techniques.

In the study, researchers analyzed where nearly 3,500 cardiac arrests took place as well as the locations of more than 2,300 AEDs located in Philadelphia County. Most often the device was found on university campuses, at 30 percent, office buildings, at 22 percent and residential buildings, at 4 percent.

However, the study concluded only 7 percent of cardiac arrests occurred within 200 feet of an AED. Another 21 percent occurred within 600 feet of an AED – roughly a six-minute walk. Earlier studies have shown the odds of survival decline by about 10 percent with every minute that passes. Even patients who receive treatment from AEDs after six minutes still have very low survival rates.

"AEDs are an essential part of the 'chain of survival' that's necessary to save cardiac arrest victims," said lead author Dr. Raina Merchant, an assistant professor of emergency medicine. "Despite thousands of them in the community, our results show they are usually not readily available during cardiac arrests. Without an AED, the minutes bystanders spend waiting for paramedics to arrive could mean the difference between life and death."

The team of researchers added in an accompanying editorial that their findings show AEDs need to be more strategically placed throughout communities to cut down on the number of cardiac arrest deaths that could potentially have been prevented. The group also urged communities to develop new ways to help officials easily find and use AEDs.