Life-saving Automatic External Defibrillators
are Easy to Use
By Jonathan Mauser, MD, FACC
Sudden cardiac death is a leading public health problem in our country and in
our community. Many advances have been made in the technology and approach to
saving lives when people experience cardiac arrest. We have more work to do,
however, in raising public awareness about this life-saving technology.
external defibrillators (AEDs) have saved the lives of young people and adults
in our community over the past several years. But more lives been unnecessarily
lost because AEDs are not widely available and because many laypeople are
simply not comfortable using them. Some people also fear possible liability if
they fail in their attempts to save a life.
the time for us to educate ourselves, and our family, friends, and co-workers
about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the value of AEDs in saving lives
and improving the outcomes of people suffering cardiac arrest.
What is sudden cardiac death?
This is natural, unpredictable
death from cardiac causes. Cardiovascular collapse occurs within one hour of
the onset of symptoms. Biological death will ensue within minutes without
How common is sudden cardiac death?
An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people a year succumb to sudden cardiac
death. Over the age of 35, the annual risk for sudden death is one person in
1,000. Only 26 percent of them get CPR, which buys them time until a
defibrillator can arrive. Only 2 percent get defibrillated. Survival to
discharge from the hospital ranges from 1 to 5 percent.
What is an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and when is it used?
AED is a self-contained device. It bears little resemblance t0 what you see in
the emergency room. AEDs are designed to be available in the community for the
public to use in an emergency, to facilitate the prompt treatment of cardiac
arrest. When a person collapses due to cardiac rhythm problems, it is critical
to be treated within minutes to prevent brain damage and death. AEDs facilitate
life-saving treatment in places where people gather, such as shopping malls,
grocery stores, restaurants, airports, casinos, and sporting events.
How do I use an AED?
external defibrillators are very sophisticated, yet very simple for a layman to
operate. Most AED models turn on when you open them and a voice in the device
will prompt the user to follow a few simple steps.
first step involves attaching self-stick pads to the victim. The machine then
analyzes the heart rhythm and instructs you verbally whether or not a shock to
the heart is required. If a shock is required, the machine then instructs
everyone to stand clear and asks the operator to push a button, which delivers
AED reanalyzes the heart rhythm and advises if any further action is necessary.
There are no gauges, screens, or measurements the operator must know how to
use. Essentially, the AED reduces this life-saving intervention to simply
opening the case, listening to instructions, and pushing a button.
Mauser is board certified in cardiovascular disease and a Fellow of the
American College of Cardiology. He is a member of the medical staff of Cayuga
Medical Center and is in practice with Cayuga Cardiology, located at the Island
Health Center, Suite 4, 310 Taughannock Blvd. in Ithaca, where he can be
reached at (607) 269-0100.