August 31, 2011 — A recent study revealed more than 1,000 cardiac arrest deaths over 15 years are connected to the failure of automated external defibrillators (AEDs); battery failure accounted for almost one-quarter of the failures. The study was published online last week in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Analysis of Automated External Defibrillator Device Failures Reported to the Food and Drug Administration").
"Survival from cardiac arrest depends on the reliable operation of AEDs," said lead study author Lawrence DeLuca, M.D., of the University of Arizona department of emergency medicine in Tucson. "AEDs can truly be lifesavers but only if they are in good working order and people are willing to use them."
Researchers analyzed reports to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about all adverse events connected to use of an AED between January 1993 and October 2008. Of the 40,787 AED-related events reported to the FDA, 1,150 adverse events connected to fatalities were reported. Almost half (45 percent) of failures occurred during the attempt to charge and deliver a recommended shock to the person in cardiac arrest.
Problems with pads and connectors accounted for 23.7 percent of the failures and battery power problems accounted for 23.2 percent of the failures.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in North America and Europe. Odds of survival decline by 7 to 10 percent per minute of delay in defibrillation. Even as AEDs have proliferated in public places such as airports and offices, bystanders are reluctant to use them. An Annals of Emergency Medicine study published earlier this year found less than half of people in public places reported being willing to use an AED; more than half were unable to recognize one.
"AEDs are like any other piece of medical equipment: They can experience unexpected failures," said DeLuca. "I would recommend that people maintain AEDs as recommended by the manufacturer. If an unexpected device failure occurs it is vitally important to promptly contact both the manufacturer and the FDA. Then be sure to return the unit (and accessories such as pads or batteries) to the manufacturer immediately so that it can be analyzed and a cause for the failure identified and fixed."
Annals of Emergency Medicine is the peer-reviewed scientific journal for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), a national medical society. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A government services chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.
For more information: www.acep.org