Despite several campaigns to increase their numbers, the restricted availability of automatic external defibrillators (AED), and poor understanding of how to use them, is contributing to the stubbornly high number of deaths from heart attacks occurring outside hospitals, a recent study suggests. The machines work by giving an electric shock to the heart to restore its rhythm.
The research was carried out in Hampshire by the University of Southampton and South Central Ambulance Service and is published in the online journal Heart. It set out to discover how available external defibrillators are, given the push for their deployment in public places, such as shopping centres and train stations, over the past decade.
During the study period of one year, 673 known PADs (public access defibrillators) were located in 278 Hampshire locations. Researchers found that, out of 1,035 emergency calls, the caller could access a defibrillator in only 44 cases. The caller was actually able to use the defibrillator in only 18 cases, and the report’s authors said that more education was needed to give bystanders the confidence to use the machines, which can save the lives of patients while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
The research highlighted the need for more defibrillators in public places with doctors saying they should be as common as fire extinguishers.
The type of AED is essential when selecting defibrillators suitable for public use where no prior training is likely to be given. Fully automated defibrillators will make the use of the defibrillator as easy as possible. The units not only offer spoken and visual indicators about each step, they also automatically analyse the heart rhythm and will automatically select the correct level of shock for the person with the heart attack.