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AEDs and CPR: Myth vs. reality

June 1, 2009

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What are some myths associated with AEDs and CPR?

Answered by Tom Kuelbs, marketing director, HeartSine Technologies Inc., Newtown, PA.

For many centuries, no explanation was offered for the sudden collapse and instantaneous death of a patient. Even as recently as the early 19th century, it was assumed that sudden death was caused by sudden stoppage of the heart when in the diastolic phase. However, in 1889, John MacWilliam in Aberdeen, Scotland, proposed a then-astonishing hypothesis: ventricular fibrillation is the cause of sudden cardiac death.

Today, approximately 1,000 patients daily have sudden cardiac arrest caused by VF in the United States. Risk factors include a family history of heart disease, heart attack or cardiac death; unexplained fainting; obesity; diabetes; and smoking.

Early access to the VF victim is vital, and the statistics for survival are clear: CPR and defibrillation provided within the first minute – 90 percent chance of survival; within five minutes – 30-50 percent survival. Time and efficacy of CPR and defibrillation can mean the difference between life and death for the patient, so encouraging action from the lay/minimally trained bystander will save lives.

Here are some common myths associated with AEDs and CPR:

Myth: AEDs are complex and difficult to use, and should only be used by a trained professional.

Fact: Lay/minimally trained rescuers will find today's AEDs much easier to use than those of earlier times, or as seen on TV shows. In addition, the devices are highly accurate in determining if a shock is warranted.

Myth: Using or owning an AED carries too much legal risk.

Fact: No known lawsuits have been brought against lay rescuers who attempt and provide CPR and/or AED use. The Cardiac Arrest Survival Act was part of legislation signed into law in November 2000 and, among its provisions, provides nationwide Good Samaritan protection, exempting anyone who renders emergency treatment with a defibrillator in an effort to save someone's life. In addition, this covers the owner or acquirer of the AED.

Myth: Lay bystanders are required to perform mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Fact: In April 2008, the American Heart Association revised its recommendations and encouraged lay bystander rescuers to use "hands-only" CPR as an alternative to CPR with exchange of breaths. Research had shown that people were reluctant to provide CPR because they were uncomfortable with providing mouth-to-mouth breathing to a stranger.



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