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Automatic External Defibrillator - Do You Need One?

Automated external defibrillator (AED) technology has advanced to the point where easy-to-use units for the home are now available. Do you need one? Philips, which manufactures the HeartStart home defibrillator, makes the case in the following chart, taken from the HeartStart page at

automatic external defibrillator

The company says:

Fire extinguishers. Seat belts. Airbags. Home security systems. All essential safety equipment to protect yourself and your loved ones. You know they are there, silently standing by, just in case. They give you peace of mind so that you can focus on life's good things.

When sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) strikes, the electrical system of the heart short circuits, causing the heart to quiver rather than pump in a normal rhythm. It typically results in the abnormal heart rhythm know as ventricular fibrillation (VF). It usually happens without warning and the majority of people have no previously recognized symptoms of heart disease. And it most often happens at home.

For the best chance of survival from SCA caused by VF, a defibrillator should be used within 5 minutes. Yet, less than 1 in 20 people survive largely because a defibrillator does not arrive in time.

Just as seat belts or airbags do not save every life in a traffic accident, a defibrillator will not save every person who suffers a sudden cardiac arrest. Yet many lives could be saved if more people could be reached more quickly.

According to the National Safety Council:

Nearly every two minutes, someone dies of sudden cardiac arrest. Automated external defibrillation (AED) could save a quarter of these lives. AED devices are showing up everywhere from industrial settings to shopping malls, and the demand for training is rising.

Philips has its own HeartStart website, and there you can read statements in favor of home defibrillators, including this from the American Red Cross:

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen anytime and anywhere and it claims the lives of more than 680 Americans each day. The American Red Cross believes that this is a tragedy that can and should be prevented. We believe the introduction of an over-the-counter AED would be a positive step toward ensuring that properly trained citizens are better able to respond to an unexpected cardiac emergency event.

Consumer Reports wrote in 2009:

Our consultants now offer the following advice:

* Learn CPR if you live with someone who has coronary heart disease.
* Home AED's may be worthwhile for people at increased risk, especially those who live far from an emergency room. (But if you live with someone at high risk, also consider learning CPR since some cardiac arrests won't respond to an AED.)
* Home AED's are also worthwhile for people who face such a high risk of cardiac arrest that they actually need an implanted version of the device but lack insurance to pay for that option.

Of course, one of the main disincentives for buying a home defibrillator is the cost. The HeartStart and similar products such as the Zoll AED Plus Defibrillator retail for around $2,000, although they can usually be found considerably cheaper at online discount retailers. In addition, accessories such as new defibrillator batteries are also not cheap.

* Get the Latest Price on the Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator (AED).

See also my reports Philips HeartStart Defibrillator - Why Is It So Popular? and Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator (AED).

Learn more about the HeartStart's two main rivals, the Zoll AED Plus Package Defibrillator and the Welch Allyn AED 10 Automated External Defibrillator.

And check out the Bestsellers in Defibrillators rankings, updated hourly, to see what people are buying.

(Note that automated external defibrillators are sometimes wrongly called an automatic electronic defibrillator or an automated electronic defibrillator.)

January 14th, 2010




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