Session Spotlights AED Maintenance, New Technology

If workplaces installed AEDs more than five years ago, the devices need to be checked and possibly replaced.

Since the Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act’s enactment in 2000, AEDs have continued to become more common in workplaces. In addition to federal legislation, all 50 states have developed specific AED laws and regulations, such as requiring AEDs in all public schools and fitness facilities. If workplaces installed AEDs to comply with these mandates more than five years ago, the devices need to be checked and possibly replaced.

Maren Nelson, senior program director of engineering for Redmond-Wash.-based Physio-Control Inc., explained how to maintain AEDs during her presentation, “When Is it Time to Replace an AED?” during Safety 2011 in Chicago.

Nelson first explained how AEDs are specifically designed to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Unlike a heart attack, SCA is an “electrical” problem caused by ventricular fibrillation arrhythmia, which causes the heart to quiver and stop pumping blood. “The goal of an AED is to return the heart to its normal rhythm, which CPR cannot do,” Nelson said. “A defibrillator is the only effective treatment for ventricular fibrillation.”

There are three things to take into consideration about the age of an AED:

1. The age of the device. Many units installed since the Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act are 10 years old or older. The American Hospital Association lists five years as the life expectancy of a defibrillator.

  • Parts become obsolete
  • expired warranty

2. Improvements in technology. Many of the old units use monophasic technology, which delivers an electric current in one direction to the heart. The new standard is biphasic technology, which delivers stronger currents in two directions to the heart.

  • Defibrillation probability increases with each energy dose. New ones can deliver up to 360 joules without harming the patient.

3. Function of battery. Consider the unit’s size, weight, replacement costs, and usability requirements. Fully automatic AEDs eliminate the need to push a shock button.

Maintaining an AED is advantageous to any workplace because SCA causes 13 percent of workplace fatalities every year, Nelson said. SCA survival rates plunge 7-10 minutes every minute defibrillation is delayed, and less than 8 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive. When used properly, 300,000 lives are saved every year in the U.S. thanks to AEDs.

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