The effect of the AED and AED programs on survival of individuals, groups and populations

Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012 Oct;27(5):419-24. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X12001197. Epub 2012 Aug 21.


Objective: The automated external defibrillator (AED) is a tool that contributes to survival with mixed outcomes. This review assesses the effectiveness of the AED, consistencies and variations among studies, and how varying outcomes can be resolved.

Methods: A worksheet for the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) 2010 science review focused on hospital survival in AED programs was the foundation of the articles reviewed. Articles identified in the search covering a broader range of topics were added. All articles were read by at least two authors; consensus discussions resolved differences.

Results: AED use developed sequentially. Use of AEDs by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) compared to manual defibrillators showed equal or superior survival. AED use was extended to trained responders likely to be near victims, such as fire/rescue, police, airline attendants, and casino security guards, with improvement in all venues but not all programs. Broad public access initiatives demonstrated increased survival despite low rates of AED use. Home AED programs have not improved survival; in-hospital trials have had mixed results. Successful programs have placed devices in high-risk sites, maintained the AEDs, recruited a team with a duty to respond, and conducted ongoing assessment of the program.

Conclusion: The AED can affect survival among patients with sudden ventricular fibrillation (VF). Components of AED programs that affect outcome include the operator, location, the emergency response system, ongoing maintenance and evaluation. Comparing outcomes is complicated by variations in definitions of populations and variables. The effect of AEDs on individuals can be dramatic, but the effect on populations is limited.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / instrumentation
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / methods*
  • Defibrillators*
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Humans
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest / therapy*
  • Survival Rate