AED Failures Linked to Cardiac Arrest Deaths

John Commins, August 31, 2011

Dead batteries, bad connections, and other malfunctions of automated external defibrillators have been linked to more than 1,000 cardiac arrest deaths over the last 15 years, a study has found.

The study -- Analysis of Automated External Defibrillator Device Failures Reported to the Food and Drug Administrationblamed dead batteries for nearly one quarter of the AED failures.

"Survival from cardiac arrest depends on the reliable operation of AEDs," lead study author Lawrence DeLuca, MD, said in the study, which was published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine.  "AEDs can truly be lifesavers but only if they are in good working order and people are willing to use them."

DeLuca's team analyzed reports to the FDA about all adverse events connected to AEDs between January 1993 and October 2008.  Of the 40,787 AED-related events reported to the FDA, 1,150 of the events were linked to fatalities.  Forty-five percent of the failures occurred during the attempt to charge and deliver a shock to the person in cardiac arrest.

Problems with pads and connectors accounted for 24% of the failures and battery power problems accounted for 23% of the failures.

Odds of surviving cardiac arrest decline by 7% to 10% per minute of delay in defibrillation.  AEDs have become common in public places such as airports and offices, but bystanders are reluctant to use them.  An Annals of Emergency Medicine study published earlier this year found that less than half of people in public places reported being willing to use an AED and more than half were unable to recognize one.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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