AEDs Take the Guesswork Out of Saving a Life

Richard Gawel


More than 320,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of hospitals in the United States each year, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s why automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are now available and accessible in many public places. Some agencies even require dental offices to have an AED on hand, especially those that practice sedation.

Combined with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), AEDs offer people who suffer cardiac arrest the best chance of survival until emergency personal arrive to help. Few people are trained in CPR, however, and even fewer have ever used an AED. Zoll’s AED Plus aims to make the process foolproof.

“Obviously, being in a dentist’s office can be a high-stress situation,” said Michael Chalifoux, regional manager at Zoll. “And so what happens is people are more prone to go into cardiac arrest. And dentists are taking the initiative to be more prepared than some other places out there to have devices like this to help their patients and help their staff.”

When a patient shows the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, such as a sudden collapse, or a lack of breathing, pulse, and consciousness, users should call 911 immediately. Next, they should activate the AED Plus. The device’s computer then says aloud, “Unit okay. Stay calm. Check responsiveness. Call for help. Attach defib pads to patient’s bare chest.”

Once in place, the AED Plus looks for a pulse and tells the user “Don’t touch patient. Analyzing.” If it determines that there is no pulse and a shock is necessary, it says, “Don’t touch patient. Shock advised. Press flashing shock button.” Once the user does so and the shock is delivered, it tells the user, “Shock delivered. Start CPR.”

Zoll acknowledges that not many users actually will have CPR training. That’s why instead of a pair of defibrillator pads, the AED Plus has a single component that helps line up where its pads should go and where CPR compressions should take place. The computer’s voice also advises users if their compressions are too deep or shallow, or too fast or slow.

“The AHA guidelines are 100 times per minute at 2-plus inches. The challenge is, when they have to do CPR, people struggle with both rate and depth,” said Chalifoux. “Our technology is going to help the rescuer. So if they’re not pushing at the guideline rate or depth, it’s going to give you feedback, which doubles the chance of survival by delivering high-quality CPR.”

After 2 minutes, the unit will advise the user to stop touching the patient. It then will analyze the patient and determine if another shock if needed. If one is necessary, it will ask the user to push the button again and continue with CPR. Users should keep the cycle going until signs of life return or emergency personnel arrive.

The AED Plus runs on a set of standard CR123 Duracell lithium batteries, which also are available in the electronics aisles of most department stores, with an expected lifetime of 5 years. An indicator on the unit lets users know if the batteries are charged and if its electronics are otherwise operational.

“Once a month, the person who buys the unit would inspect it. A green checkmark means everything’s good with the electronics, batteries, electrodes, and everything else,” said Chalifoux. “If it’s not, and you get to the point where it’s the 5-year anniversary, it will go to a red x and start chirping at you like a smoke detector when it’s time to change the batteries.”

Training also is available for both the dentist and the dental staff so everyone in the office is ready to use it. In fact, Zoll reports that Dr. Roy Daniels and his assistant in Sedona, Ariz, used the AED Plus to save the life of his patient, Nancy Simley, who suffered a cardiac arrest while waiting for routine crown work.

“The AED was coaching me to push harder,” said Daniels. “Even when the fire department took over CPR, the AED said to push harder.”

“I don’t think I would have made it without the AED,” said Simley. “Absolutely, it saved my life. Dr. Daniels took safety seriously and did the right thing by equipping his office with an AED and training his staff.”

And perhaps not surprisingly, patients aren’t the only people who may benefit from having a unit on site.

“Do you know what the number one cause of death is for dentists? Cardiac arrest,” said Chalifoux. “So it could be the dentist going into cardiac arrest. It could be used to save him or her.”

Zoll additionally offers a 7-year warranty and program management, which helps remind users to inspect the unit. Also, software updates are available. For example, guidelines for optimal CPR may change. Users, then, load software onto their computer and send the update to the AED Plus via its infrared port.

“The AED Plus supports the rescuer not only through the shock but also through high-quality CPR,” said Chalifoux. “All the research shows that if you want to bring up survival rates, people need to have better CPR. And that’s what really differentiates us.”

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