The Risks of not having an AED when needed can be dangerous. Automated external defibrillators are the most commonly used devices in sudden cardiac arrest emergencies. All hospitals and emergency rooms across the United States have them to ensure proper treatment of victims that can potentially suffer a heart attack or cardiac arrest.
Moreover, the federal and state governments have issued bills and legislation on the need for AEDs availability in public places, such as schools, airports, government buildings, etc. However, some still wonder why these electrical devices are present almost everywhere.
In this article, we’ll analyze the various risks associated with poor AED accessibility and the consequences of not using this device.
The Necessity for AEDs: Cardiac Arrest Causes
Cardiac arrest is an emergency when the person’s heart suddenly stops pumping blood. If not treated accordingly and on time, it can result in brain damage and impairment of other vital organs.
There are many causes associated with cardiac arrests. The main ones include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart valve disease
- Congenital heart defect
- High blood pressure
Each of these – combined with excessive drinking, smoking, inactive lifestyle, and obesity – can result in cardiac arrest. These factors are evermore present in our daily lives and increase the risk of fatal SCAs. Thus the risks and complications associated with unavailable AED grow even more.
Once a person experiences a cardiac arrest, the first thing you should do – if there’s an AED available – is to analyze the heart’s rhythm and administer shocks if necessary. Of course, after this, you should immediately call the emergency services and perform the CPR procedure until they arrive.
Hence, if an AED device is not available on hand, it can increase the number of fatal cardiac arrest cases.
The Main Risks Of Not Having An AED When Needed
There are many risks associated with not having an AED device available. The most common one is death. However, there are additional ones. For example, if you don’t administer shocks or chest compressions, a person who has suffered an SCA might experience a neurological dysfunction, consciousness disorders, neurocognitive deficits, etc.
Each of these states can occur after a sudden cardiac arrest, and the chances increase if the person doesn’t get defibrillation or chest compressions immediately after the cardiac arrest.
Brain damage and neurological dysfunction are the most common risks of not having an AED when needed. Usually, these happen because of some injury. But there is also the possibility of it being the result of some neurological causes. This can include subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage, epileptic seizure, ischemic stroke, or others, which can lead to cardiac arrest.
The neurological consequences of suffering sudden cardiac arrest can be dire. In most cases, it means seizures, myoclonus status epilepticus, or other movement disorders. Sometimes, the patient may fall into a coma that can be irreversible.
All of this is due to the simple fact that when the person suffers a cardiac arrest, the heart stops pumping blood which means it will stop providing blood and oxygen to the brain. Not enough blood and oxygen can result in permanent brain impairment and other neurological dysfunctions. The most frequent neurological dysfunction of cardiac arrest is a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury.
A combination of CPR and AED can significantly reduce the chance of neurological dysfunction. Defibrillation will do that by preserving the cerebral perfusion pressure and shortening the time for the restoration of spontaneous blood circulation.
The impaired brain functions and neurological complications can result in a series of functional and physical deficits. These functional deficits can impact the patient’s everyday life and cognitive, motor functions, and other abilities.
How cardiac arrest will impact different bodily and mental functions depends on which part of the brain has remained without blood and oxygen supply. The most frequent functional deficit outcomes after a cardiac arrest are the inability to concentrate and make decisions, problems with balance, and other issues.
If the heart doesn’t pump the blood for a longer time, but the person survives the cardiac arrest, there can be more severe consequences. These outcomes can obstruct basic everyday activities, such as bathing, dressing, interacting with other people, etc.
That’s why the availability of an automated external defibrillator is crucial for mitigating this risk. If you administer shocks and restore the heart’s rhythm in due time, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of this happening.
Consciousness Disorders & Memory Loss
Another risk of not treating a cardiac arrest patient with an automated external defibrillator is consciousness disorder. Even though consciousness disorders are among the least known and elaborated consequences of cardiac arrests, they can be prevented with the proper use of AED.
Consciousness disorders are also related to impaired brain functioning. One study found that recurring consciousness disorders because of cardiac arrest are memory loss and speech difficulties. The longer the SCA episode, the greater the risk of consciousness disorders and memory loss.
The most sensitive part of memory is short-term memory which can be easily affected by the deficit of blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This risk is even greater for out-of-hospital SCA victims, as nearly 30% of them experience significant memory impairment.
Memory impairments are associated with global cerebral atrophy or the loss of neurons and the connections that help them communicate throughout the brain tissues. Nonetheless, the American Heart Association states that bystanders can decrease this percentage by administering CPR and AED on time.
Changes in the Quality of Life
If a person suffers from brain impairments or consciousness disorders, they’ll also suffer drastic changes in the quality of their lives. They might find it hard or impossible to do their everyday activities like interact with other individuals, keep up with their communal and social activities, etc.
Nevertheless, an American Heart Association study found that the quality of life can remain acceptable good for months after a person suffers cardiac arrest. The main thing is to have an available AED, analyze the heart’s rhythm, and administer shocks if necessary.
No AED Available: Who’s Under Threat?
The risks of not having an AED when needed are innumerable. All people can be affected by the lack of AED devices in public places and professional facilities. However, this situation can be worse for some than for others.
Following are some of the most easily affected individuals and organizations by the lack of available AEDs:
- Students at public, charter, and boarding schools;
- Individuals working as contractors and construction workers;
- Children and infants cared for by nannies, daycare, and healthcare providers;
- The elderly accommodated in nursery homes and long-term care facilities;
- Citizens affected by fire, electrocution, and other emergencies;
- Publicly employed persons working at federal or state institutions.
What To Do If No AED Is Available
Sometimes, bystanders or medical workers find themselves in an emergency when there’s no AED available. In such situations, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross advise calling the emergency responders and immediately starting with the performance of CPR.
Usually, CPR is done in combination with AED shocks, but if no AED is available, you shouldn’t lose time in searching for one. If you start giving CPR right after recognizing a sudden cardiac arrest, you can double or triple the victim’s potential survival outcomes.
Even though the automated external defibrillator is easier to use when it comes to restoring the normal heart rhythm, the CPR procedure is just as effective, albeit requiring more manual work. By doing chest compressions and resuscitation properly, you can ensure proper blood flow and oxygenation within the body.
You must do this until the emergency services arrive and administer defibrillation therapy and additional needed methods.
Final Thoughts: The Risks of Not Having an AED When Needed
The risks of not having an AED can be severe. A cardiac arrest victim who doesn’t receive defibrillation can suffer a range of health complications, such as impaired brain functions, neurological dysfunctions, memory loss, or worse – death.
That’s why multiple federal and state laws and bills regulate the accessibility to AED in public places around the US, like schools, airports, and government buildings. Also, government institutions have set standards for the availability of AEDs at various workplaces to effectively mitigate the risks.
In case there is no AED, remember to stay calm and give on-time CPR, as this can also lower the chances of occurrence of most risks associated with a cardiac arrest. CPR can reduce the chances of brain impairment, memory loss, and other neurological dysfunctions and deficits. This should help give you a much better understanding of the risks of not having an AED when needed.