Use of an Automated External Defibrillator can increase the cardiac arrest survival rate by a staggering 70%
Every 1.7 minutes, someone in America suffers Sudden Cardiac Arrest, otherwise known as SCA. If not treated, SCA can easily be fatal and it often is – more than a third of a million Americans die each year from sudden cardiac arrest. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that most of these incidents are fatal– and experts say that survival rates consistently hover at or below 10%.
However, when it comes to SCA, it’s not all doom and gloom. Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs, have been helping both first responders and ordinary individuals safely resuscitate SCA victims and save lives without complex medical training. AEDs work by producing a small electrical charge that can reset a patient’s heart to its correct rhythm.
While easy-to-use portable defibrillators are only a few decades old, AEDs are so effective at saving lives that they’re estimated to increase SCA survival rates by a staggering 70%. Despite these statistics, many areas of the U.S. simply don’t have enough AEDs to go around. Experts estimate that an increase in AEDs to optimal levels could save more than 40,000 American lives each year – and that’s just one reason why it’s essential for more people to learn about and have access to this lifesaving device.
Communities with comprehensive AED training programs see a 40% increase in cardiac arrest survival rates
Experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest can be terrifying for a patient and their family – and the fact is, even the fastest first responders often take 8-12 minutes to reach a victim. An AED drastically improves the odds of survival. However, to be effective, an AED needs to be sufficiently close to an SCA victim, and that’s one of the reasons why community-based training programs have been so effective at helping resuscitate cardiac arrest victims across the country. AED programs may be even more important in rural areas, in which victims may suffer an SCA a hundred miles or more from the nearest major hospital. In that case, it could take an hour or more for first responders to arrive – a virtual death sentence if nearby individuals do not have easy access to an AED.
Where AEDs are located in the United States
As many people would expect, the vast majority of AEDs (59%) in the U.S. are currently owned by first responders such as a policemen, firefighters, and EMTs. The next largest group of AED owners are schools (17%), followed by faith-based and recreational organizations, nursing homes and senior centers, and hospitals, clinics, and other medical centers. It’s a good idea to know the general places in which the equipment is most likely to be located, so, in case of emergency, you have a better shot at finding (or helping others to find) a nearby AED. In addition, if you or a loved one has a close family member with a heart condition, you may want to inquire about where the closest AED is, especially if traveling to remote or rural areas.
More AEDs in public places can save lives
In the first 10 months after Chicago’s O’Hare Airport installed 49 AEDs on the premises, the devices were used 14 times, saving a total of nine lives – nearly 1 each month (and that’s only one airport). When it comes to helping an SCA victim, every second counts. According to statistics published by the American Heart Association, every additional minute AED use is delayed corresponds with a 10% reduction in patient survival rates. This means that in especially large areas or buildings, such as airports like O’Hare, it pays to have multiple AEDs located in different areas in order to facilitate easy access to the devices.
Despite their substantial benefits, 64% of Americans have never even seen an AED
While AEDs save an increasing number of lives each year, many Americans don’t even understand what they are. This widespread lack of knowledge means that individuals may not be able to get full use of the life-saving equipment present in their community. Additionally, a lack of understanding means that many Americans are less likely to push for more AEDs in their schools, religious and community centers, and other public areas.
While the number of AEDs is increasing, especially in places like college and university campuses, it’s not increasing fast enough to help many SCA victims. However, increased education and awareness may be able to help. And hopefully, this awareness will help make death from an SCA into an uncommon occurrence.
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