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article imageLack of national guidelines on AEDs puts Canadians at risk

By Karen Graham     Nov 29, 2013 in Health
Having a heart attack or going into cardiac arrest is something we all fear, but technology has given us the Automated External Defibrillator, or AED. A life saving device such as the AED should be readily available in most public places, but it's not.
To find out why AEDs were so difficult to find in Canada, CBC Marketplace investigated the problem, and came up with some shocking results. While the use of an AED within 3 minutes of a cardiac arrest can increase the possibility of survival by 75 percent, they weren't easy to find.
The investigation showed that the life-saving device was often locked away, inaccessible to the public, or not registered with 911. The Marketplace team also found there were no national guidelines in place that would assure easy access to the AEDs when needed, registration with emergency services, or guidelines on maintaining the devices.
The Automatic External Defibrillator is a portable electronic device that is able to diagnose potentially life-threatening arrhythmia's of ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia in a patient. The device will defibrillate the heart, reestablishing a normal rhythm.
Cardiac Science Powerheart G3 Automated External Defibrillator (AED)  open  charged and ready for us...
Cardiac Science Powerheart G3 Automated External Defibrillator (AED), open, charged and ready for use
Owain Davies
This may seem confusing to many people, but should the heart stop beating after going into an abnormal rhythm, or suddenly stopping, the AED, using electrical therapy, get it beating again. But this is only possible if the AED is used within a few minutes, and that is one of the problems found by the investigation.
Health Canada reported on August 23, 2913 that close to 1.37 million Canadians suffer from heart disease. It is also the leading cause of death, with over 49,000 deaths every year. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 40,000 Canadians experience sudden cardiac arrest every year. Over 85 percent of these potentially fatal events happen outside of hospitals.
The American Medical Association (AMA) says that for every minute defibrillation is delayed after a cardiac arrest, the survival rate is decreased 7 to 10 percent. Survival is only about a five percent chance after 12 minutes. So it is critical that CPR and the use of an AED is started within three minutes of a cardiac arrest.
But statistics show that fewer than eight percent of Canadians who have a cardiac arrest outside a hospital will receive help from an AED before emergency personnel arrive, greatly decreasing their chance of survival. It was found that there weren't enough AEDs available, or they were not easily accessible.
An AED in plain sight at Tokyu Oimachi Station  Oi Shinagawa Tokyo  Japan. Rail personnel have all b...
An AED in plain sight at Tokyu Oimachi Station, Oi Shinagawa Tokyo, Japan. Rail personnel have all been trained in how to use the AED.
ISAKA Yoji (cory)
The location of an AED in a public place is critical to the survival of someone in cardiac arrest. It should take no longer than two minutes to go and find an AED and get back to the victim. Then it is necessary the AED be registered with an emergency service so they will know where to send an ambulance crew. CBC Marketplace sent teams to "hot-spots" in Toronto, areas known to have been the locations of a number of cardiac arrests. A total of 52 public places, including malls, banks, office buildings, gyms and cafes were visited during the survey. All the locations were in areas where someone might run to find an AED. Only half the places had an AED.
Of those locations where an AED was located, many of the security staff didn't know where the device was, and in some places, the device was locked away, or only available to authorized personnel. Half of the AEDs were not registered with 911, meaning there was no way to direct emergency responders to a location.
It was found that while provincial, national and private funding is available, policies regulating the AEDs vary greatly across the country. In Ontario, $10 million has been set aside to place AEDs in public sports arenas and recreational facilities, as well as schools with large sports programs.
Manitoba passed an extensive legislation package this year, putting AEDs in public buildings, schools, malls and homeless shelters. They mandated all of the devices be registered with 911. The law goes into affect on Jan. 1, 2014, making Manitoba the only jurisdiction to require all public places have AEDs.
More about AEDs, Cardiac arrest, Canada, American heart association, Defibrillators
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