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AED Technology Saves Lives

The death of Jaxon Logan at a Provo IceCats hockey game Friday drives home the need to respond quickly and fully to cardiac emergencies.

Logan, a hockey player, was struck in the chest with a hockey puck during a play, causing him to go into cardiac arrest. People trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation who could respond immediately gave Logan his best chance of survival. Unfortunately, despite quick action by his coach and others, Logan died from his injury.

CPR can only do so much when someone is in cardiac arrest. In cases of ventricular fibrillation -- a quivering of the heart that stops the effective pumping of blood -- CPR is only a stopgap measure; it can’'t restore the heart to a normal rhythm.

To do that, you need a defibrillator. Viewers of medical dramas such as “ER” and “Chicago Hope” have seen how doctors or paramedics can save a life by putting electrical paddles on a patient’'s chest and sending a jolt of electricity through the body. The electrical shock is meant to get the heart muscles beating in rhythm again.

For many years, defibrillators have been found only in emergency rooms or on paramedic rigs, where people are trained to read a heart monitor to determine whether using the device is warranted. While this equipment has saved many lives, the ambulance comes too often too late for someone who has been down for 5 or 10 minutes.

New technology is cutting down that time factor. Automated External Defibrillators are now being issued to police officers and can be found in many public places, such as shopping malls. The Peaks Arena management is planning its own purchase in the wake of Logan’'s death. The device consists of two electrodes to be placed on a patient’'s chest while a computer interprets the heart’'s rhythm and determines whether an electrical shock is needed. The rescuer then pushes a button that delivers a shock to the heart. The system is so simple that anyone can be trained to use it.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported that people who were trained only in CPR were able to save about 14 percent of the victims. But when AED training was added, the save ratio increased to about 24 percent.

As an advance in emergency medicine, AED is as big as training lay people to perform CPR. Currently, the only obstacle are the price (the machines average around $1,400), maintenance and questions about liability.

The price issue will surely be resolved as technology improves, as we’'ve seen happen with other technology. Congress recently appropriated $30 million to pay for AED purchases and training in the next five years as part of a terrorism response bill.

As for the liability question, existing law effectively addresses that. As long as a rescuer is acting within the scope of emergency training he has received, he cannot be found liable if a patient dies.

The benefits, however, far exceed the costs and the imagined legal risks. AED technology brings help closer to people who need it and, when seconds count, can make the difference between life and death.

While there is no certainty that an AED would have saved Jaxson Logan’'s life, there is plenty of data to show that AEDs should be as readily available as fire extinguishers.

For more information about CPR and AED training, contact the American Heart Association at