Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing AEDs

faq about aeds-badgeSchools Face New Challenges As AED Equipment Matures

School Health has been placing AEDs in schools across the nation since 1999. In the beginning, placing AEDs in schools involved creating awareness in the community about sudden cardiac arrest, determining the number of AEDs necessary to protect the school's population, creating AED policy and procedures for proper use and maintenance of the AEDs, and finding the funding to purchase the AEDs and replacement pads and batteries over subsequent years. Today, schools face a new challenge when it comes to their AED programs - determining when to replace old AED devices with new ones. As equipment matures and technology advances, it is important to evaluate the age and capabilities of your AEDs to determine if it is time for a replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing AEDs:

Q: If parts are still available for my old AED, do I still need to consider replacing it?

A: The first thing you should find out is if your AED is still under warranty. If it is not under warranty but parts are still available, you will be responsible for any repairs to the unit. One of the most common repairs to old AEDs is the computer board, which can cost over $2,000 to repair. This is more than it costs to purchase a new AED. It is also important to note that even if parts are still available for your older AED device, certain components may become obsolete as time goes on, which will limit the manufacturer's ability to repair your unit.  Overall, it is important to understand these issues that surround maintaining an AED that is out of warranty, and begin finding funding for the eventual replacement of the unit.  Generally, you will want to have a replacement AED before your old one is out of service to ensure you always have a working AED on the premises.

Q: If I have never used my AED, is replacing it still as big of a concern?

A: Yes. Electronic components age and lose their effectiveness over time, even if they are not being used. Many units today turn themselves on and off to perform functional checks, so even if the AED has never been deployed to save a life, it has been in service during its lifetime. In order to save a life, your device should be in the best condition.

Q: Does the age of my AED matter?

A: There are currently two sources that regularly review depreciation of medical supplies. The American Hospital Association’s 2004 Estimated Useful Lives of Depreciable Hospital Assets lists the life expectancy of a defibrillator at five (5) years. The Department of the Army Technical Bulletin (TB MED 7) lists life expectancy of a defibrillator at (8) eight years. Typically, you can rely on the length of the AED manufacturer's warranty as a general indicator of the quality and reliability of the AED device.  That warranty period will tell you how long the manufacturer expects the AED to operate successfully.

Q: Is the technology in new AEDs really that much different than what is in my old AEDs?

A: In some cases, the answer to this question is a clear "yes." For instance, if your AED uses monophasic waveforms versus biphasic waveforms to convert chaotic heart rhythms to an organized heart rhythm, then you are using a technology that is no longer manufactured and should definitely replace your AED. This may be the case if your AED was purchased prior to 2004. Another technology improvement made in recent years is the ability for AEDs to escalate the amount of energy they deliver to a patient if lower energy shocks fail to rescue them.Learn more in our blog article 4 Steps to Evaluating an AED’s Shock Delivery Before Purchase. Or read the study Defibrillation probability and impedance change between shocks during resuscitation from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, which indicates that higher shock levels on subsequent shocks increases the probability of defibrillation.

Additionally, AED manufacturers are focusing on making their products easier for lay-rescuer's to use. They recognize that a rescue is often a very noisy and chaotic situation and want to ensure that all of the advanced medical technology they put into their AED machines is used properly. One example of this is the ability to give a shock automatically, if needed, without the user having to press a button. This can be beneficial for AEDs placed in public areas where a lay-person is going to be the first responder. You can learn more about this technology by reading these two studies, which indicate that having a fully automated AED either provides the same or better outcome as a semi-automatic:

(1) A study comparing the usability of fully automatic versus semi-automatic defibrillation by untrained nursing students.

(2) Safety of fully automatic external defibrillation by untrained lay rescuers in the presence of a bystander.

A less complex useability feature of newer AEDs is the ability to provide clear voice prompts and visual indicators to the user during the rescue. This way, if a person has forgotten their AED training, the AED will walk them through the steps.

Finally, it is worth looking at newer technologies to see if you can find an AED that is less expensive to maintain. AED manufacturers have been able to find less expensive ways to manufacture AED batteries and pads, and have also been able to synchronize their replacements (so you replace both battery and pads at once, instead of having to keep track of each separately), making it easier and cheaper to maintain AED units.  The savings alone might justify replacing your old AEDs.

Q: What are the next steps I should take to decide if replacing my AEDs is the right choice?

A: School Health can help you make decisions about replacing your existing AEDs or expanding your current AED program. We may also be able to take your old AEDs as a trade-in toward your new ones (depending on the brand and their condition).

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