Defibrillation offers a shock that interrupts the rapid heart rhythm to restore a normal rhythm. Patients can lose consciousness during cardiac arrest. If conscious, they often describe the shock as a "kick in the chest" that is over quickly. Some describe the shock as painful; however, the device saves the person from potentially life threatening arrhythmia. Sometimes after a shock, the heart beats too slowly. In this case, the defibrillator senses a longer than normal pause and begins immediately to pace the heart.
Defibrillation is the definitive treatment for cardiac arrest. The chance of success deteriorates with each minute. New technology has allowed defibrillators to become more user-friendly. Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) can analyze patients' electrical rhythm and proceed to deliver pre-programmed shocks without further decisions by the rescuer. These machines are simple to operate and are ideal for use by unskilled first responders. This technology is suitable for health clinics and general practitioners' surgeries.
In the United States, members of the public may have access to these devices, and they have been deployed in public buildings, sporting venues, and are carried by police. Family members of patients known to be at high risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest have also successfully used these devices.
New developments in the defibrillating shock may increase the efficacy and safety of defibrillation. Although automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) have proven the benefits of early defibrillation, a new-generation AED incorporates all of the characteristics required for widespread deployment in order to revolutionize the treatment of sudden cardiac arrest. This device is significantly smaller, weighing less than four pounds. It is extremely rugged and requires no maintenance for extended periods. Most importantly, this device is easy to use, with just a few simple steps guided by both comprehensive voice and text prompts.
With these technological advancements, AEDs have the potential to assume a role similar to that of the fire extinguisher - omnipresent and always ready in case of emergency. In addition to first responders such as police officers and firefighters, this new AED is appropriate in a variety of other settings. For example, companies with large campuses or high-rise buildings without easy access now keep an AED on the premises for use by physician-authorized responders. Some airlines carry them on board all their aircraft for flight attendants to use. In addition, many health clubs, golf courses, hotels, and casinos across the country also now make AEDs accessible.
AEDs are beginning to expand into the realm of the hospital, where they enable nurses to become first-tier responders, eliminating the wait required for the assembly of a code team. Walk-in medical clinics and urgent care clinics also are keeping AEDs on hand. With ever-increasing access to easy-to-use AEDs, more and more victims of sudden cardiac arrest have a way to increase their survival rate. However, one of the barriers to widespread access to AEDs is the concern over legal liability.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Last updated: 31-May-04