Font Size

Automated External Defibrillators (AED) (cont.)

Automated External Defibrillators

In the mid-1980s, a new generation of computerized defibrillators was introduced. Called Automated External Defibrillators, or "AEDs" for short, these devices were capable of interpreting a person's heart rhythm and automatically delivering a defibrillation shock with only minimal input from the operator.

For the first time, EMS personnel such as basic emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were able to provide the life-saving technique of defibrillation without having to interpret ECG rhythms.

As AEDs began to be placed in more and more "basic life support" ambulances (those not staffed by more advanced paramedics), the survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest began to rise. However, the problem of getting the defibrillator to the victim in less than 10 minutes remained a challenge.

The next step in reducing the amount of time it took to get a defibrillator to a cardiac arrest victim came with the recognition that the police are often the first to arrive at the scene of a medical emergency, ahead of an EMS unit.

  • With this knowledge, some EMS systems began to train and equip police officers to provide defibrillation with AEDs.
  • This allowed defibrillation to be performed sooner, often before an ambulance arrived.
  • The use of AEDs by law enforcement personnel had begun to have a significant impact in resuscitating victims of sudden cardiac arrest.

Public Access Defibrillators

The evolution of early defibrillation took another major step forward with the concept of public access defibrillation or "PAD."

  • It is now recognized that AEDs are extremely easy to use.
  • Formal training programs, such as those offered by the American Heart Association's Heartsaver AED course, can be taught in as little as 4 hours.
  • However, operating an AED is so simple that it can be done successfully even without formal training. Training is recommended for as many people as possible.
  • Local and state regulations determine the training requirements for PAD programs.

The legal requirements that allow the lay public to use AEDs are determined on a state-by-state basis.

  • In some states there is true public access defibrillation, meaning that anyone with knowledge of an AED can use one any time it is available. For example, a traveler in an airport may retrieve and use an AED mounted in a public location.
  • In other states, use of AEDs is more restricted. Some states require a formal training program, the direct involvement of an authorizing doctor, or that the AED rescuer be part of a formal in-house response team.
  • In most states, any individual using an AED in a good faith attempt to save the life of a cardiac arrest victim will be covered by some form of a "good Samaritan" statute.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Automated External Defibrillators (AED):

Automated External Defibrillator (AED) - Patient Experience

Have you used or been saved by an automated external defibrillator (AED)? Tell us what happened.

Atrial Fibrillation Slideshow

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Automatic External Defibrillation »

Kouwenhouven showed that electrical shocks applied to dogs within 30 seconds of an induced ventricular fibrillation (VF) could produce a 98% rate of resuscitation; however, those shocked after 2 minutes of VF had only a 27% resuscitation rate.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary