Part I in a series. View part II
CBC Marketplace recently aired an episode on automated external defibrillators (AEDs) – combining facts regarding their potential life-saving benefits with some disturbing findings regarding their accessibility to the public. As Iridia’s business was built on the need which our Founder, Dr. Allan Holmes, had identified to make AEDs more widely accessible, this issue is near to our hearts. However, to fully understand the reasons why having AEDs readily available is so important, it is necessary to understand some of the facts regarding sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).
Up to 40,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in Canada alone. Without rapid treatment, particularly a shock delivered by an AED, most of these cardiac arrests will result in death. On average, every 1 minute delay in defibrillation will reduce survival rates by 7% to 10%. Simple math suggests that after a 10 minute delay in defibrillation, the likelihood of survival is slim to none. Further, if you are revived in the 7-10 minute range, the likelihood of notable brain damage and significant lifelong health ramifications thereafter is very high.
For this, and other reasons, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends an AED response time of three minutes or less. Fortunately, the work being done by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, both at a provincial and a national level, as well as by other organisations, is raising awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of defibrillation, with the result being that we are seeing a significant increase in the number of AEDs which are being placed in the community. However, a number of challenges still exist.
Too Few AEDs
Applying an AED to someone in sudden cardiac arrest within the three minute response time guideline recommended by the Heart and Stroke Foundation would require that it takes no longer than 90 seconds to get to an AED, and 90 seconds to return to the SCA victim. Assuming a brisk walking pace of 300 feet per minute (not everyone responding may be able to run), means the responder would ideally have to travel no more than 450 feet to reach an AED. Current deployment for these life-saving devices is nowhere near this level of saturation. Locating an AED can often be compared to searching for a needle in a haystack.
Beyond having an appropriate number of AEDs, there is the issue of where they should be placed. Best practice recommends having AEDs highly visible and publically accessible; that means they can be easily reachable and the cabinets in which they are stored are unlocked. Many AEDs installed in public locations are either hidden away and/or are under lock and key, accessible only to a limited few who may not be present during a cardiac emergency.
Too Little AED Awareness
Despite, in some instances, the above two issues having been addressed, a successful outcome after an SCA event is not guaranteed. Many individuals are still unaware of AEDs and their lifesaving benefits and would not know or think to use one in an emergency. Sadly, there was a tragic case in Calgary where a young athlete collapsed from SCA, the AED was retrieved, but nobody used it on the victim and he died. As can be seen, there are a number of issues which still need to be addressed in the quest for making AEDs more publicly accessible and raising awareness of their lifesaving benefits.
Later this week, we will consider some of the solutions which are available to overcome the challenges associated with this. Check in with us again to learn of these and, as always, we welcome your comments and contributions about this important issue.
Part I in a series. View part II