Adverse design of defibrillators: turning off the machine when trying to shock

Ann Emerg Med. 2008 Nov;52(5):512-4. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2007.11.037. Epub 2008 Feb 20.


A recent publication demonstrated the possibility of erroneous operation of 2 widely used monitor-defibrillators and observed that the design of user interfaces might contribute to error during operation. During an ambulance simulation training exercise for 72 junior internal medicine physicians that called for defibrillation in the management of cardiac arrest, we observed that in 5 of 192 defibrillation attempts by the physicians, the monitor-defibrillator was inadvertently powered off. When the device is inadvertently powered off, recognition and subsequent steps to defibrillate delayed defibrillation an average of 24 seconds (range 14 to 32 seconds). Our analysis of the controls of this monitor-defibrillator found that the device could be powered off even if fully charged and ready to shock. Redesign of the equipment might prevent this inadvertent event.

MeSH terms

  • Defibrillators*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / education*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Manikins*