Automatic external defibrillators: Clinical, training, psychological, and public health issues

Richard O. Cummins, Mickey S. Eisenberg, James E. Moore, Thomas R. Hearne, Elena Andresen, Rosalie Wendt, Paul E. Litwin, Judith R. Graves, Alfred P. Hallstrom, Judith Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) will be used by spouses, family members, emergency first-responders, and the citizenry at large. Such use, however, raises a number of clinical, training, psychological, and public health issues. Clinical issues: Is cardiac arrest to be verified by the operator or the AED? Second verification systems, such as breath detectors, produce errors of omission, but greatly expand the pool of potential users. The relative merits of high sensitivity and low specificity in arrest verification must be defined by clinicians relative to the setting and the potential users. AEDs require cessation of basic CPR during their assessment periods; clinicians must determine the tradeoff between long interruption of basic life support and much earlier delivery of countershocks. Training issues: Criteria for those to be trained include consideration of who the patient will be and who the AED operator might be. AEDs pose a familiar adult education problem, that is, acquisition of a new psychomotor skill and retention of that skill for long periods before performance. What are the best teaching techniques? Currently available AEDs have different designs for device-operator interaction. Which design is most likely to assure proper performance during an actual arrest? Psychological issues: What are the psychological effects of learning about, living with, and eventually using an AED? The development of the automatic external defibrillator constitutes the most recent attempt to achieve early defibrillation of patients in cardiac arrest. The potential public health effect of such devices is enormous.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-760
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1985
Externally publishedYes


  • CPR
  • computers
  • defibrillator
  • resuscitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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