Having an AED nearby when you need it

Police and ambulance crews carry AEDs, and they're commonly available in many public places, including malls, office buildings, sports arenas and airplanes. However, many cardiac arrests occur at home, so having a home AED can save precious minutes in reviving a person with ventricular fibrillation.

Proponents of home AEDs say putting them where they're needed most will save thousands of lives each year. But critics argue there's no reliable evidence that home defibrillators save more lives. Critics also fear that people won't call for emergency medical services at all or quickly enough, that they won't maintain their AED properly, or that they'll forget where it is.

Deciding if an AED is right for your home

For some people who have a high risk of cardiac arrest, having an AED can provide peace of mind and might help save their lives. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider whether to buy an automated external defibrillator:

  • Your risk of sudden cardiac death. If you're at high risk of sudden cardiac death due to a specific heart rhythm problem, your doctor will likely recommend an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) rather than an AED.
  • Your living arrangements. You need someone with you to use the AED if you have cardiac arrest. And the person needs to be agile enough to get on the floor to use the device and get back up. If you live alone or if the person you live with can't get up and down, a home AED might not make sense.
  • Your costs. Home AEDs can be expensive and aren't usually covered by insurance.
  • Your overall health and philosophy. If you have numerous medical problems, a terminal illness or a very weak heart that hasn't responded to treatment, you might choose not to be resuscitated from sudden cardiac death.

Tips for proper use and maintenance of AEDs

If you get an AED for your home, make sure that family, friends and visitors know where it is and how to use it. And you need to maintain it properly. Here are some tips for maintaining your home AED:

  • Register your AED with the manufacturer. That way you'll receive safety alerts and recall notices. Also, check the manufacturer's website periodically to keep current on information about your device.
  • Learn what you need to know. Consider enrolling yourself and whoever might need to use your home AED in a community education class, such as classes offered by the American Red Cross, to learn how to use your automated external defibrillator properly and to perform CPR.

    This will also enable you to come to the rescue if someone has cardiac arrest in a public place and there's an AED nearby.

  • Have a practice run using the AED as you would in an actual emergency. Because the AED works only on certain types of cardiac arrest, the people who might need to use the device should know what steps to take if the AED indicates a shock isn't needed, but the person remains unresponsive.
  • Store your AED in an easily accessible place. Make sure family, friends and visitors know where it is.
  • Keep the AED maintained properly, including installation of new batteries as needed, typically every four years, and replacement of electrode pads as needed.
  • Heed alarms. Home AEDs are designed to test themselves to make sure they're working properly. Be sure you can hear the alarm. If your machine starts beeping or you see a light flashing, call the device manufacturer. Have the number handy.
  • Buy the right AED for you. Some AEDs aren't intended for home use, but rather for emergency crews or for installation in public places. Don't be lured by websites or other sellers offering AEDs not intended for home use.

AEDs offer a way to save a life. Before buying one, talk to your doctor and do research. And don't forget to learn the basics, such as CPR.

April 19, 2017