AEDs saving more lives

Art Bastianello, 64, of Roswell says he’s alive today thanks to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). During one of his routine workouts at the Cowart Family Ashford Dunwoody YMCA in January 2006, Bastianello had a heart attack.

While he doesn’t remember the event, witnesses told him later that he was on a circuit training machine when he collapsed. Before an ambulance arrived, a YMCA staff member revived him with an AED.

Bastianello says the AED absolutely saved his life: “There’s no doubt about that. If I had been home, if I had been in my car ... It was just a convergence of luck.”

The AED difference

An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life- threatening cardiac arrhythmias of the heart and attempts to stop them with defibrillation. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that more than 95 percent of people who go into sudden cardiac arrest die. However, in places where defibrillation is provided within five to seven minutes, the AHA says the survival rate is as high as 30-45 percent.

The “automated” part is a big factor in those higher survival rates. Dr. Van Crisco, an interventional cardiologist at Saint Joseph’s and Northside hospitals, says that with the old, manually activated defibrillators, the user had to grab paddles, put them on the chest, crank it up to the right voltage and defibrillate the person.

“The general public was not trained to use that effectively,” he says. But now, with the easier-to-use automated defibrillators, he says, “The general community can participate in the resuscitative care of patients.”

AED access

More public places are offering AEDs, says Liz Zaharopoulos, preparedness and education manager for the American Red Cross, Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter.

“Every airport has AEDs, federal buildings, sports arenas, schools, universities, school systems have gotten grants for them, World of Coca- Cola, the Aquarium, many faith-based organizations, anyplace where the public gathers,” says Zaharopoulos.

Home use

So if AEDs are so effective and easy to use, why doesn’t everyone have one in their home?

The cost could be a hindrance. Benjamin Karp, president and owner of Georgia CPR, an AED distributor, says his AEDs range from $1,275 to $1,800. But despite the hefty price tag, he says he sells a lot to individuals.

“One of the units that I sell, which is called the Philips on-site, is available for home use without a prescription. All other AEDs require a physician’s prescription for purchase,” Karp says.

“It’s important to do your homework when selecting an AED,” Karp says. “There are reliability studies; there are ease-of-use studies. There are AEDs that are plagued with recalls.”


AEDs are equipped with voice instructions so that anybody — even without training — can use them. However, the Red Cross encourages everybody to have CPR and AED training for two reasons: If the initial shock doesn’t work, the AED will instruct the responder to follow up with CPR.

Also, “It gives the person confidence,” Zaharopoulos says. “There’s a greater chance of them actually using an AED.”

Karp says that the beauty of the AED is that it can’t hurt the patient. “We as lay responders don’t have to make the ‘shock or no shock’ decision,” he says. “It won’t allow you to deliver a shock unless the patient needs a shock.”