Automated External Defibrillators: Choosing the Right Model for the Right User

January 1, 2009 | Evaluations & Guidance


Automated external defibrillators and semiautomated external defibrillators, often collectively referred to as AEDs, analyze a patient’s electrocardiogram (ECG) and either deliver a shock automatically if one is warranted or prompt the user to do so. AEDs are available as AED-only (stand-alone) units or with manual defibrillation and ECG monitoring capabilities.

AEDs are used by a wide variety of individuals responding to a cardiac event. Some users are well versed in defibrillation techniques; other users employ defibrillators only in rare emergencies. Different users will require differing levels of automation and different degrees of instruction from the defibrillator they’re using.

Given the range of possible users, having the right unit on hand is important. This Evaluation examines the following 12 AEDs and recommends the best ones for each type of user and use environment:

In this section, we provide our judgments for all 12 models. Nine of the products underwent our testing and have been given ratings. Three other products have not been tested, but we have reviewed their specifications; see the discussion Not Rated, but Worth Considering below and the Evaluation at a Glance table for our judgments about those products.

We have divided our findings into two categories: AEDs purchased for first-responder use and AEDs purchased for public access defibrillation (PAD) use. “First responder,” as we are using the term, refers to any rescue personnel—healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, and similar individuals—who would be called on to provide cardiac resuscitation. PAD users are individuals who have been trained to use defibrillators placed in public areas, allowing resuscitation to be started even before first responders arrive on the scene; they are unlikely to have medical training beyond basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an AED. Our AED purchasing recommendations for these user groups can be found in this table.

AEDs used by first responders may or may not be located in the hospital. Within the hospital, they are placed in areas (such as an outpatient clinic) where waiting for emergency personnel to arrive with a defibrillator would delay defibrillation for longer than three minutes. These AEDs would typically be employed by first-responding nurses or members of a rapid response team. When AEDs are used outside the hospital, personnel trained in basic life support (BLS)—such as emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, police officers, and firefighters—would bring an AED with them when responding to medical emergencies in the community.

Many first responders use a defibrillator fairly or very often and can go through the steps of defibrillation with little or no help from the device’s prompts and instructions. In fact, for users who are trained in advanced life support (ALS), the prompts could be a distraction or even a hindrance; such...

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