Automated External Defibrillator "Heartbeat" Program

The Importance of Automated External Defibrillation

Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest
There are several factors that can influence a patient's survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. One of the most significant of these factors is the time from the patient's collapse to the time of defibrillation.

Defibrillation
Many cardiac arrests involve a disturbance of the heart's electrical system. The most common of these disturbances is ventricular fibrillation (V-Fib). Defibrillation involves delivery of an electric shock to the patient's chest. The shock travels through the chest to stop V-Fib so that the heart can recommence its normal rhythm. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a machine that analyzes a patient's heart rhythm. If the AED recognizes V-Fib, the AED will tell the provider to press a button that will deliver a shock to the patient. The AED will not allow a shock to be delivered unless it recognizes V-Fib.

Time Frame
A patient's chance of survival from cardiac arrest due to V-Fib is decreased by approximately 10% with each minute that passes. It is therefore crucial that defibrillation is provided within the first few minutes after a patient's collapse. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can delay the damage to the heart after cardiac arrest, allowing for a slightly longer time for effective defibrillation. CPR alone, however, cannot restore the heart's normal electrical function. It is imperative to both perform CPR and defibrillate the heart within the first few minutes after a cardiac arrest to give the patient the best chance of survival.

Public Access Defibrillation Provider and the "Good Samaritan Law"
Article 30 of the New York State Public Health Law (Section 3000-B) allows for persons trained in the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to operate AEDs for emergency treatment. Furthermore, the trained person who uses the AED "voluntarily and without expectation of monetary compensation" is not liable for damages.