The FDA recently approved a purse-sized defibrillator (AED – automatic external defibrillator) for home use at $2000 each. The company “is already selling the product on its Web site and hopes to have it on stores shelves by Christmas . . . [they] hope the device will become as common as a fire extinguisher or a smoke detector . . . “, and is being advertised as the “latest in essential safety equipment“.
Galen has written on this earlier this week. Let’s look at some studies on bystander defibrillation.
In a review of over 8000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, a study found this:
Placement of 779 AEDs in the high- and medium-incidence practices would have provided treatment for 112 patients with cardiac arrest in 7 years. To provide for the 16 cardiac arrests in low-incidence practices, an additional 1928 AEDs would be required.
To put that in perspective, in a low-incidence practice (which would still have a higher incidence of sudden death than an average home), over 1900 AEDs (automatic defibrillators) would have to be purchased to treat 16 cardiac arrests over a 7 year period.
Despite any form of advertising, the prognosis of sudden cardiac death is quite poor, whether a defibrillator is available publicly or not. A retrospective study suggested that targeted public placement of AEDs increased overall survival rate from a cardiac arrest from 5.0 to 6.3 percent.
Certainly some may view any increase in survival rate to be worth $2000. However, before rushing out and buying an AED, consider the evidence. While I applaud continued public use of AEDs, I don’t think it’s an essential part of the well-equipped home yet. AEDs have got a ways to go before it can be compared with fire extinguishers, seat belts, and air bags.