Automated External Defibrillator

Sudden cardiac arrest facts:

  • The most frequent initial rhythm in adult sudden cardiac arrest is "ventricular fibrillation"
  • The only effective treatment for ventricular fibrillation is electrical defibrillation.
  • The probability of successful defibrillation diminishes rapidly over time.

The ultimate goal in treating sudden cardiac arrest is to resuscitate the patient to the pre-arrest level of neurological functioning. The first step towards this goal is restarting the heart. In many instances the only way to do this is deliver an electrical shock or a "defibrillation" to the heart. Defibrillation was once a skill reserved for emergency care providers trained in all aspects of advanced cardiac care. Today, thanks to the automated external defibrillator (AED), shocks can be delivered by people with less training. The term automated external defibrillators refers to external defibrillators that incorporate a rhythm analysis system. AEDs eliminate the need for training in rhythm recognition and make early defibrillation by minimally trained personnel practical and achievable.

To help facilitate this goal of early defibrillation, in late May of1997 Tampa Fire Rescue placed automated external defibrillators on 20 engines, 4 aerial apparatus, 4 Chief cars, 1 Hazmat unit, 1 ventilation truck, 2 airport crash trucks, and 8inspector cars. The Fire Chief also carries an AED now.

On May 31,1997, the second day the AED's were put into service, Tampa Fire Rescue's crew on Engine 8 "C" shift got TFR's first AED save. Engine8 "C" had a 5-minute response time to a 64-year-old female they found in cardiac/respiratory arrest. They attached the AED, it advised to shock. After delivering one shock, the patient's heart began beating and generating a good pulse. They then assisted her breathing until the Rescue unit arrived six minutes after their arrival. On June 12,1997 this survivor was discharged from the hospital with little or no neurological deficit. Since this time, Tampa Fire Rescue has had 6 more AED saves, which includes two more saves by the crew of Engine 8 "C."

If you would like any further information about AED use by Tampa Fire Rescue, please call Captain Kenny Licata, Quality Assurance Officer, at (813) 274-7007.