WKYT Investigates| Devices used for heart emergencies may not work

Published: May. 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM EDT
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No national standards exist for the maintenance of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and their registration with manufacturers. A study by University of Louisville Cardiologist Dr. Brad Sutton found that 20 percent of the AEDs he and his students tested in Louisville and other major cities didn't work.

"Imagine turning it on, and it doesn't work," Dr. Sutton told WKYT's Miranda Combs. He said one in twenty had a dead battery or materials that had expired. "We expected to find some AEDs that had been forgotten about, but we didn't think there would be a 20 percent failure rate."

Dr. Sutton said this is a problem that needs new laws, requirements, to make sure every AED is in working order. "There's no national standards right now for maintaining these things, registering these things," he explained. "It needs to be maintained. It needs to be tested in order to be functional." Dr. Sutton continued, "The companies that manufacture these devices are variably engaged in how much they want to help the customer. And what's interesting about this industry is that many of these manufacturers don't sell directly to the customer. They work through distributors. So there's this additional layer of complexity between the device, manufacturer and the end user."

We checked a couple of Lexington public hot spots to see if their AEDs seemed to be in working order. Lexington's Bluegrass Airport has four AEDs throughout the campus. Officials said the device warns them when the battery is low, and they do a thorough check quarterly. Rupp Arena has seven AEDs. They stated that they check them every night. We asked the City of Lexington for a list of all AEDs in public places. There were more than 200.

Lexington businessman Tim Hayden knows the importance of a working AED firsthand. An AED saved his life two years ago. He was in a meeting and blacked out. Co-worker Erin White helped administer CPR and yelled for the AED. "They definitely save," she said. "He's proof. Because I don't know that, had we only done CPR that the heart would have ever, the heart could have stopped working."

After that, White said her awareness of AEDs changed. "I went to a ballfield and said, 'Do we have one because these kids are playing baseball,'" she recalled.

"There's more than 350,000 cardiac arrests out of the hospital in this country every year. And if you're not there with good CPR, with a defibrillator in three to five minutes, the average survival is less than ten percent," Dr. Sutton said. "And every minute after that that goes by, the survival goes down another ten percent."