Poor maintenance makes AED defibrillators unreliable

maintenance-01Heart-defibrillator maintenance leaves much to be desired. The largest suppliers of resuscitation-devices have issued a warning. Last Tuesday a woman in Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands narrowly escaped death when an AED failed.

High costs and ignorance are the cause of many Automated External Defibrillators being poorly maintained. Owners install a lifesaving shock device in their home, but they forget about it, observes one of the country’s largest suppliers, Medisol.

The reasoning usually behind this is that customers, having just spent on average £ 1,000,=, feel secure. “This however will not be of much help in the event of a life-threatening heart event.”, notes Anne-Marieke Wieman of Medisol.

Free inspection

Medisol held a campaign a year ago to inspect their customers’ totally free of charge. About half of the devices inspected displayed some defect. Often the defibrillation pads had ceased to operate (lifetime: 2 years) or the batteries were depleted (lifetime: four years). The cause is often lack of awareness, but high maintenance costs also contribute to customers’ unwillingness to pay. “The annual fee for a maintenance service contract varies from £ 59 to 99 per annum. Only 50 procent of Medisol’s customers conclude such a contract, generally the least expensive”. 

Excessive exposure to moisture

maintenance-02With the risk that victims cannot be helped quickly enough. This happened last Tuesday while a woman was in cardiac arrest in a shopping centre in the Dutch city Bergen op Zoom. A nurse who was at the scene proceeded with CPR and shop employees rushed to a community centre to collect an AED defibrillator. In the meantime the police had arrived and had taken over the resuscitation, but couldn’t get the AED to operate. It transpired later that the AED had been installed at a location where it was exposed to excess moisture.
Despite this the woman survived and is still in hospital. Her son Michel Wiegeraad finds  it “ridiculous” that the AED defibrillator couldn’t do its job. “Such a thing should just work. AED’s should really have a label like fire extinguishers do. They should also be subject to mandatory annual inspection. This ended on a happy note, but if my mother had died, I’d have lived on with the question: What would have happened if that AED defibrillator had simply worked “?

The Inspection of the Healthcare Council had already in 2013 raised the alarm after receiving several reports from suppliers on failing AED’s. In all instances the electrical stimulus needed had failed to materialize “with in some cases fatal consequences for the patient.” On that occasion the Council asked manufacturers to send a letter to the users drawing their attention to the need for preventive maintenance.

Responsible

The owner – many individuals like shopkeepers and sports club owners – is responsible for maintenance and replacement of parts. If the battery needs to be replaced, most devices will beep or a led-light will blink. But you will hardly notice that if you store the AED defibrillator in a carrier case in a place where only a few people come.’

This translation is based on an article that appeared in the Dutch National Newspaper AD, written by Heleen Boex / Hanneke van Houweling on 01/09/16 – 04:20.