Choosing an AED for Best Value

AEDs are designed for use by relatively untrained individuals, but provide life saving features that even highly trained responders need.

To be effective, AEDs need to be used as quickly as possible when a cardiac emergency occurs. For every minute that passes after a person’s heart stops, their chance of survival drops by 10% per minute. So waiting for the Fire Department or an ambulance to arrive is not a good thing.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends that every cardiac arrest that occurs should receive treatment from an AED within 3-minutes of the heart stopping.  In addition to using an AED, CPR needs to be used.

So how do you select an AED that will provide the best chance of survival for the cardiac arrest patient, and how do you get the best value in your purchase?

While the initial purchase price of an AED is important, there are other factors that can add or detract from the value.  We have a list of questions that may help you to determine the best value for your AED.  You should know that all AEDs that are Health Canada approved are able to provide the life saving treatment needed.  But just like fire extinguishers, AEDs are not used very often – perhaps not for several years – but when the AED is needed, a person’s life will depend on the ability of the AED to function properly. And because AEDs are much more complex than fire extinguishers they should undergo regular servicing and testing, to ensure that they are ready to save a life.

Here are some of the questions that should be asked to make sure you receive the best value for your AED investment.

  • How reliable is the AED?

The most modern AED will perform daily self tests of all important functions including the battery level, software, and ensuring that the pads are connected and have not expired.  A simple visual check of the AED on a daily basis looking for a prominent flashing green LED should be all that is required.  Similarly, both an audio and visual alarm should be present to indicate if the daily self-test has detected any problems with the AED.

Some AEDs will only perform a weekly self-test, meaning should a problem arise, the AED potentially would not detect the issue for up to 7 days.  This has lead to some AEDs requiring a back up battery pack on-hand at all times.

  • Does the AED provide clear instructions that aid the user in performing CPR and in the use of the AED?

Newest technology AEDs can be configured by the seller to accommodate the people who may use the AED.  For untrained or people who have only basic CPR, the AED can be set to support CPR compressions only, and must provide coaching to maintain a compression rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.  This is a new emphasis according to the 2015 resuscitation guidelines.  Not all AEDs offer this important feature.

For health care providers the new technology AEDs can be configured to support both CPR compressions and rescue breaths, again with specific coaching and a metronome or other pacing device to ensure compressions are at least 100 per minute.

All of the approved AEDs provide some form of audio instruction for the user, but the newest technology also provides video instruction for users.  When this feature is present, the AED can also provide videos to be used for training responders.

  • Does the AED have easy upgrade ability or a limited life?

The latest technology AEDs have been designed so that parts that expire (batteries and electrode pads) can be easily replaced and the AED won’t have a limited life.  AEDs with internal non-replaceable batteries degrade over time and will definitely have a limited life.

While most AEDs can have their software upgraded to accommodate new or changing protocols, many manufacturers require users to purchase upgrade “kits” along with special devices to connect the AED to a computer.  The latest technology AEDs do not require connection to another device to be upgraded, which means that they can be upgraded without removing them from service.  In the case of the Lifeline VIEW AED, as with all Defibtech AEDs, these software updates are provided at no charge when needed, and can be used easily by almost anyone.

AEDs with embedded software may need to be returned to the factory or may no longer be supported by the manufacturer.  A good rule of thumb is to purchase the newest technology AED you can, and avoid AEDs with a design from before 2003.

  • After use, how easy is it to retrieve the ECG data and send it to the patient’s medical team?

Just like performing a software upgrade, many AEDs require the use of special cables, other devices and a computer to retrieve data from an AED that was used in a rescue.  But the latest technology AEDs use simple data transfer system like Defibtech. A simple SD type memory card in the AED allows data to be easily retrieved and forwarded to a medical team without incurring additional expense or work.  Similarly, an AED with this type of data transfer can be used for troubleshooting any AED issues without removing an AED from service.

  • How expensive is it to maintain the AED?

All AEDs require the electrode pads and external batteries to be replaced when they expire.  There are a variety of prices for pads and batteries, and also various shelf-lives of each component. With only a few exceptions most AEDs should average a cost of less than $100 per year over 10 years for the replacement of pads and batteries.  Some older technology AEDs have expensive replacement batteries, and buyers should ensure that the AED selected will not be discontinued for the foreseeable future.  Despite what many sellers say about servicing an AED only when a component expires, just like fire-extinguishers, all AEDs should undergo a complete inspection and test on at least an annual basis.  To find an AED not ready to perform a rescue when needed is a problem no one would want.