FALLS CHURCH – Each year, over one million Americans have heart attacks.
One of the greatest lifesavers for heart attack patients is an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED. An AED is a lunchbox-sized device used to evaluate the cardiac status of an individual suspected of suffering a cardiac arrest.
AED use by non-professsionals
The AED guides the user through the process of administering a defibrillation shock if it determines one is needed. AEDs are designed to be used by non-professionals with a minimal amount of training. Once turned on, most AEDs provide visual and voice prompts that instruct the user what to do and when to do it. Many public facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics have AEDs readily accessible for use by any passerby.
The increasing use of sophisticated medical devices by consumers poses challenges to manufacturers, distributors, regulators, and the organizations that make these devices available to users. One problem is maintenance.
AEDs are very sophisticated devices that need on-site maintenance. Most have internal component testing functions that relieve the owner of much of the maintenance burden, but—like smoke alarms or fire extinguishers—these devices cannot be hung on a wall and left there. Each manufacturer has its own recommended maintenance and testing schedule. Some schedules recommend maintenance checks as frequently as every day.
What you should do if your organization has an AED:
- Be aware of recalls and field corrections covering the devices you use.
- Review your policy for suggested device maintenance.
- Make sure your AED policies reflect the fact that AEDs are tracked devices by the FDA and understand your responsibilities related to the AED device.
- Make sure inspection of the devices includes components with expiration dates, such as electrodes and pads.
- Make sure the manufacturer of the devices you use has your correct contact information to ensure prompt communication of recalls and service bulletins.
- Make sure that responding staff are trained to use these devices. The Red Cross and other organizations provide training classes for the use of AEDs.
- Review the American Heart Association website that includes a page of tips on AED usage, as well as a page of AED manufacturers.
Your organization’s internal controls may be adequate, but because AEDs also are available over the counter, your patients who have these devices in their homes also need to be made aware that maintenance is required.
If your organization has patients with these devices in their homes, make sure they and their caregivers are aware of the need to perform the manufacturer recommended maintenance and the importance of keeping their contact information up to date with the manufacturer.
Note: For hospitals and healthcare organizations, check to see if you are a subscriber to the recall service RASMAS. RASMAS tracks AED recall notices and alerts, and routes them to the designated staff member. Consumers can follow RASMAS’ recall coverage on Twitter at @HealthRecall.