Monday, March 27, 2006

So What’s An AED?

Well you better know it could save your life! Automated External Defibrillators are the next best thing to the paramedics getting there the moment your heart stops beating.

If you want the low down, a lot of people have a cardiac arrest episode at the end of their lives, and young or old, the national average life expectancy from such an episode is only 5%. Please don’t believe what you see on television I am giving you the facts. Before the defibrillator was invented, when the heart stopped so did you. But chances of survival went up following the introduction of CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary-Resuscitation), and leveled off in the 1980's and have only just recently got any better. The best place to have a heart attack right now is in an airport, or oddly enough in a Casino in Las Vegas. The pervasive availability of AED’s in these locations have upped the chance of survival (that means walking out of hospital) to about 70-80%.

So why the dramatic difference?

Cardiac arrest means your heart stops beating normally. It doesn’t mean your heart is dead or that your brain is dead, but it does mean that there is no pumping of blood round your body any more. Usually the heart muscle is contracting erratically in a fluttering manner. The blood carrying oxygen is what keeps us alive, and without blood, well actually without oxygen, your brain cells start to die in about three minutes. In about five to eight minutes without oxygen the heart muscle itself starts to die. After that even if the paramedics do get the heart started you will never know it!

So the critical factor is how efficiently you can massage the heart to keep some blood carrying oxygen flowing to the brain and to the heart muscle itself, and do you know how long you’ve got? About five to eight minutes! If you had ever tried to do CPR you’d know that in about three minutes you are plum tuckered out and even changing off with a partner just delays the inevitable arrival of the point where the heart muscle will not contract any more even if you stimulate it to do so. Rarely does CPR cause the heart to start beating normally again. It takes a shock.

That is where AED’s come in and why they are a life saver. While continuing CPR, you open the box you turn it on and you follow the clear directions which are spoken to you. You cannot shock someone who doesn’t need a heart start, because the devises have a computer inside that analyses the status of the subject. Only when necessary they allow a complete novice to administer a live saving jolt of electricity to the chest of a person who is already clinically dead, and if given soon enough can bring them back to life, and keep them alive until the telephone operators who are receiving your 911 call, and the paramedics who are fighting the traffic to get to your home or the park or the shopping center, can get you the help that is needed. They make a huge difference and there should be an AED in every home, office and work place, and possibly every car.

Click on the picture above to see the range of AED's available. They are all good!

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