Automated External Defibrillator
Three Houston-area teenagers died last month during football practices, and another local teenage athlete died this week while running track.
Next week, the University Interscholastic League will consider requiring each high school in Texas to have an AED on site.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable electronic device that diagnoses and treats cardiac arrest by re-establishing an effective heart rhythm. An AED is called external because the operator applies the electrode pads to the bare chest of the victim, unlike internal defibrillators, which have electrodes surgically implanted inside the body of a patient (like the one sported by Vice President Dick Cheney).
Once the pads are attached to the patient by a trained bystander, the AED diagnoses the heart rhythm and determines if a shock is needed to treat fibrillation. If the device determines that a shock is necessary, it will charge in preparation to deliver the shock. When charged, the device instructs the user to ensure no one is touching the victim and then to press a button to deliver the shock. After the shock is delivered, the device again monitors the heart rhythm of the victim to determine if another shock is necessary.
While we can't say that such a device would have saved the lives of the young athletes who recently died, these devices clearly have been shown to increase the chance of survival after witnessed cardiac arrests.
The American Red Cross claims that more than 200,000 Americans die of sudden cardiac arrest every year, and that up to 50,000 of these deaths could be prevented by initiating the Cardiac Chain of Survival and having an automated external defibrillator (AED) available for immediate use at the time of the emergency.