Today, September 29, is World Heart Day! In honor, and to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease, I’d like to share a few thoughts about sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and new technologies to help save the hundreds of thousands of people who experience an SCA each year.
Sudden Cardiac Arrests are caused when the heart’s natural electrical system that is responsible for pumping blood (i.e., beating the heart) malfunctions. Such a malfunction is referred to as an arrhythmia. Someone experiencing an SCA needs to be treated with a defibrillator immediately. These devices shock the heart with electricity to restore its normal rhythm. Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) are a special type of defibrillator that can be used by untrained bystanders to correct these life-threatening arrhythmias.
AED devices are typically housed in containers the size of a small briefcase and are often mounted on a wall or in a kiosk for use in emergencies, typically in office buildings or large population centers. More and more public access places are now being equipped with AEDs. Examples include airplanes, restaurants, business and government offices, shopping centers, schools and fitness centers.
If an AED is available and used quickly and properly, it can save a person’s life. Some estimates suggest that a 27% increase in the number of people who could be saved if more AEDs were available and used when needed (Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, 2016); a staggering statistic in light of the fact that SCAs will kill more than 325,000 people outside of the hospital this year in the United State alone (Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, 2014).
But, there is a challenge – if there is no AED around, defibrillation can’t happen. And there are a lot places where there are no AEDs or installing an AED simply doesn’t make sense.
Ideally, everyone would carry an AED – certainly that is why they have become common place in so many corporate offices around the world. However, two major factors preclude such a proliferation of these life saving devices: AEDs are too big and too expensive. It’s not reasonable to expect people to carry what amounts to a small brief case everywhere they go, especially with everything else that individuals typically bring with them.
But, what if the AED could simply connect to a person’s phone – like the case you probably have on your Smartphone right now? So, when you grab your phone and run out the door, you’re also taking an AED – the device you can use to save a life – with you in your pocket. As for the cost challenge? What if this new AED technology used your Smartphone’s hardware and software? Certainly there are specialized parts needed in the AED itself, but a surprising amount of what you need (screen, software, speakers, and more) is already on the phone. AEDs would be considerably less expensive to get to market – so we eliminate that barrier too. It’s a great idea and one that is being developed by Altrix Medical.
So, here’s to World Heart Day – and to saving more lives by getting AEDs into more hands around the world! As always, I’d love to hear your comments.