Background: Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have become increasingly available outside of the Emergency Medical Systems (EMS) community to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). We sought to study the use of AEDs in the home, businesses and other public settings by minimally trained first responders. The frequency of AED use, type of training offered to first responders, and outcomes of AED use were investigated. In addition, minimally trained responders were asked if they had encountered any safety problems associated with the AED.
Methods: We conducted a telephone survey of businesses and public facilities (2683) and homes (145) owning at least one AED for at least 12 months. Use was defined as an AED taken to a medical emergency thought to be a SCA, regardless of whether the AED was applied to the patient or identified a shockable rhythm.
Results: Of owners that participated in the survey, 13% (209/1581) of businesses and 5% (4/73) of homes had responded with the AED to a suspected cardiac arrest. Ninety-five percent of the businesses/public facilities offered training that specifically covered AED use. The rate of use for the AEDs was highest in residential buildings, public places, malls and recreational facilities with an overall usage rate of 11.6% per year. In-depth interviews were conducted with lay responders who had used the AED in a suspected cardiac arrest. In the four cases where the AED was used solely by a lay responder, all four patients survived to hospital admission and two were known to be discharged from the hospital. There were no reports of injury or harm.
Conclusions: This survey demonstrates that AEDs purchased by businesses and homes were frequently taken to suspected cardiac arrests. Lay responders were able to successfully use the AEDs in emergency situations. Further, there were no reports of harm or injury to the operators, bystanders or patients from lay responder use of the AEDs.