What is an AED and where can I buy one?

Last week I attended the Resuscitation Council (UK) Scientific Symposium. As always there was a trade fair at which various companies/manufacturers displayed their wares. A major theme was AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators). Even as a trainer the choice was overwhelming and I began to think how does someone who has no experience make an informed choice. During the conference a sociologist from Nottingham University presented a short paper on just this subject. He found that when people are trying to purchase an AED they find impartial advice hard to find, mainly because they are not sure who to ask.

What is an AED?

An AED is an Automated External Defibrillator. It is a small portable device that is designed to be used by laypersons. However they are used widely in health care organisations as well because they do not require the user to be able to identify rhythms. The defibrillator itself will identify the two rhythms that require a shock and deliver enough energy to stop the abnormal rhythm to allow the heart’s own rhythm to restart. It is also important to provide CPR which you can also learn during first aid training.

So where can you get advice?

I would suggest that if you already use a first aid/resuscitation training organisation that you approach them. Your trainers will likely have experience of a variety of different AEDs or have contacts with suppliers. If you don’t already use such an organisation then your local ambulance service may be able to help, they will also be able to advise if there is a machine out there that is compatible with theirs. This probably won’t help reduce your costs but it will reduce wastage of pads. You are also welcome to contact me. However, the first question I am often asked about AEDs is how much do they cost.

How much does an AED cost?

The cheapest AED on the market I know of is £882+VAT, rising to £1995+VAT. Cardiac Science has recently brought a new AED to market called the ‘G5’ and this has prompted a reduction in price of the ‘G3’ to possibly as low as £1000. Overall the market is very competitive; at the trade fair last week there were at least 10 different AEDs all claiming to be better than their competitors. So how do you choose?

How to choose?

Decide your budget

Probably a major consideration is going to be your budget, although be aware that most suppliers have some negotiating room and if you don’t ask you certainly won’t get! It may be that you can get accessories for free at least. As mentioned above the price varies greatly. So having decided on your budget my advice is to shop around.

Check out the market

A trade fair is often a good place to start although they can be busy and difficult to have all your specific questions answered but you can begin to get a feel for what is available. If you have the opportunity to visit a trade fair my advice is have a good look but don’t buy on the day. By all means take all their literature away with you and consider what it is you need and then invite them to come and talk to you and a group of staff. It is your team, after all, that are going to be using it.

Think about who is going to be using it.

All AEDs give voice prompts some also give written instructions, depending on the likely user you may be more comfortable with more detailed instructions. All AEDs will ‘catch up’ if you don’t need the instructions so they will work for the more confident user too. Will your AED be available to the public to use too? This may make you want to consider a fully automated version.

Do you want a fully automated version?

Some AEDs do not require you to press a button to deliver the shock i.e. fully automated, instead they will advise that you stand clear and they will deliver the shock. It depends on the user and their likely confidence levels on what is best for your needs. If you are a health care professional you may want to be able to press the button and deliver the shock yourself. If not, then it may save time by having a fully automated version as there is no delay in delivering the shock.

Think about who you are likely to use it on.

AEDs as standard are designed for adults. They can in the absence of specific children’s pads be used on a child over 1. However, if it is to be used in an environment where you expect to have sick children, or you are treating children, then it is possible to purchase children’s pads or some machines have a key or switch to change between adult and child.

Do you want to pay extra for extra?

The newer AEDs have CPR feedback mechanisms whereby they will give the rescuer cues as to whether they are compressing the chest a sufficient depth and rate. Is this something that would be useful for your likely users?

Another consideration is training.

Can you access training? Will the training course ensure everyone gets the opportunity to practise using the AED? Some courses will only demonstrate it. I don’t think there is anything quite like ‘having a go’ and any training I provide on how to use an AED ensures everyone gets to ‘have a go’. Some organisations will offer free initial training with the purchase of an AED, this is a great offer but if you work in an organisation where undertaking resuscitation training is mandatory beware that this training may not include medical emergency training that you require. Also you need to consider access to annual updates which are recommended by the Resuscitation Council (UK).

The technical details

With each AED there are technical details to consider too. There is battery life, warranty, the cost of pads, post-sales and technical support; will you need a cabinet of shelf? How many do you need? On a large site you may need more than one.

As you can see there are lots of things to consider. Therefore, my advice would be to talk to an experienced trainer and your local ambulance service and then if you have the opportunity visit a trade fair to start to get a feel for the market place but don’t buy on the day. Take all their literature and consider what it is you need and then invite them in to come and talk to you and a group of staff. Then talk again to your trainer.

I hope this has helped. If you would like to contact me please do and I will always try to help. I have 3 different training AEDs available that you can look at. Happy buying!