AEDs for Home Use
An AED in your home might be worthwhile.
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are widespread in public and private areas where large groups congregate, such as airports, office buildings, shopping malls and schools. An increasing number of AEDs, however, are also being purchased for use in private homes. Approximately 80 percent of sudden cardiac arrest cases occur at home; access to an AED at the crucial moment could therefore potentially save a loved one’s life as only defibrillation can stop a deadly cardiac arrhythmia. For a patient with a high risk of cardiac arrest, having an AED at home would eliminate the need to wait several minutes until an emergency medical team arrives with one, and in sudden cardiac arrest, every minute counts.
Who might consider buying an AED for their home?
If you’re considering purchasing an AED for your home or private business, it is important to understand the underlying risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest in order to assess how and when you might use one. Most people who experience sudden cardiac arrest have some degree of coronary heart disease, a condition in which plaque builds up in the heart’s arteries, narrowing the arteries and preventing enough oxygenated blood from flowing to a section of the heart muscle. Unfortunately, many people may not know they have coronary disease until sudden cardiac arrest occurs because it is “silent,” or undiagnosed. Some people may even lack clear signs of heart attack, and do not even realize that it has occurred.
During a heart attack, some heart muscle cells die and are replaced with scar tissue. This scar tissue negatively affects the heart’s electrical conduction system, causing electrical signals to spread abnormally throughout the heart. These changes to the heart increase one’s risk of sudden cardiac arrest. For those who are aware of coronary artery disease or a previous heart attack, it is important to note their elevated risk of experiencing cardiac arrest.
Other risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest include:
- A history of cardiac arrhythmias
- A personal or family history of sudden or inherited disorders that make you prone to arrhythmias, including ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Heart failure
If the above health concerns are relevant to you or a family member, roommate, domestic partner, neighbor or employee, you might consider purchasing an AED for private use. Anyone who wishes to buy an AED likely first needs to get a prescription from a physician if it is required. The reason for this is to ensure proper oversight regarding the routine maintenance (i.e., regularly changing the batteries) and that the local emergency medical service (EMS) are notified about the type and location of AED. The physician can advise you on the best location for the AED in your home environment, as well as help you come up with an emergency response plan should you need to use the AED.
Before purchasing a home-use AED, discuss with a qualified physician or reputable AED distributor what aspects to consider when purchasing and installing an AED. For example, if you live alone, having an AED in your home would be virtually pointless because in all likelihood no one would around to use it in an emergency and so you may want to spare the expense. Another factor to consider is the age of a potential sudden cardiac arrest victim. Children over eight years old can be treated with a standard AED, but for younger children the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends you acquire special pediatric pads which reduce the dose of electricity; these pads may need to be purchased separately.
All potential users (including family members—see below) should also be trained in CPR and safe operation of an AED. Be advised that AEDs are manufactured and sold under guidelines approved by Health Canada.