AEDs user-friendly -- even for children

DALLAS, Oct. 19 -- Sixth-grade school children with moderate training can learn to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to save the lives of cardiac arrest victims almost as quickly and efficiently as professional emergency medical personnel, researchers report today in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"Now we know that AEDs are literally easy enough for a child to use," says Gust H. Bardy, M.D., of the University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, and a researcher involved in the study. "The development of user-friendly defibrillators is a major advance in our efforts to improve the chances of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest. The broader use of these devices by the public could save as many as 50,000 lives each year."

Previous studies have shown that trained non-professionals had little difficulty using AEDs on real patients in sports stadiums, theatres and casinos. However, this was the first AED study involving children.

AEDs are used to restore a normal heartbeat in an individual who has experienced sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest is usually caused by ventricular fibrillation -- a chaotic, abnormal electrical activity of the heart that causes the heart to quiver in an uncontrollable fashion. When this occurs, little or no blood is pumped from the heart. The person loses consciousness very quickly, and unless the condition is reversed, death follows in a matter of minutes. The AED provides an electrical shock to the heart, which helps to restore a normal rhythm. But for every minute of delay in delivering that shock, the chances of survival drop about 10 percent.

"There is a persistent idea that many hours of special training are required to operate an AED," says Bardy. "But the fact is, these machines are incredibly easy to use. After one minute of instruction, it took sixth graders less than 30 seconds longer than a trained professional to apply a shock that could restore a

Contact: Berna Diehl
American Heart Association

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