Are AEDs effective? Impact of early defibrillation on cardiac arrest survival

Do AEDs work? Impact of defibrillation on cardiac arrest survival in Australia

Cardiac arrest is a serious medical emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, preventing oxygen and blood from flowing to the brain and other vital organs. It is a leading cause of death worldwide, and survival rates are typically low without prompt treatment. 

Most deaths from sudden cardiac arrest occur outside of the hospital, in incidences known as out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA). In Australia alone, more than 25,000 OHCA are recorded each year.

When the heart stops beating, oxygenated blood is no longer delivered to the body’s vital organs. However, the use of early defibrillation has been shown to have a significant impact on improving cardiac arrest survival rates. The earlier defibrillation is administered, the greater the chance of successful resuscitation and survival. 

Why is early defibrillation so important?

The importance of early defibrillation was demonstrated in a study published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal. The study found that the survival rate for patients who received defibrillation within three minutes of collapsing was 74%, compared to only 49% for those who received defibrillation after three minutes.

This study and others like it have led to a greater emphasis on early defibrillation as a crucial component of cardiac arrest management.

This statistic demonstrates that in the instance where a defibrillator can be used to shock the heart within a few minutes after collapse, the heart’s normal rhythm may be restored, which means many victims can, and do, survive.

How to give defibrillation

Early defibrillation can be administered through the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which are portable devices that can analyse a patient's heart rhythm and deliver an electrical shock if necessary.

Modern-day AEDs are able to ascertain whether or not the victim has suffered a cardiac arrest or a heart attack. If the defibrillator detects that a shock is not necessary, it’s still important to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR.

Who can use an AED?

AEDs include audio or visual instructions that explain to the user how to use the device, meaning that no prior medical knowledge is required, and are therefore designed to be used by non-medical personnel. They can be found in many public places, such as airports, shopping malls, and sports stadiums.

They can significantly reduce the time between collapse and defibrillation, as they can be quickly accessed and used by bystanders before the emergency services arrive. 


The impact of early defibrillation on cardiac arrest survival cannot be overstated. Defibrillation is a critical component of cardiac arrest management, and the sooner it is administered, the greater the chance of successful resuscitation and survival.

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