Lay rescuers can be trained to operate portable, computerized, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) used to apply electric shock to restart a heart that has developed a chaotic rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest. Survival is directly linked to the amount of time between the onset of sudden cardiac arrest and the treatment with an electric shock to stop the abnormal heart rhythm. If an AED is available where you work or live, ACEP recommends taking a training course to learn to use it.
In September 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved over-the-counter sales of AEDs, available for use in the home and without a prescription.
ACEP is partnering with the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/UntilHelpArrives to provide training on the use of AEDs and other first aid skills.