Early Defibrillation Programs

Revised and approved by the ACEP Board of Directors June 1999 and June 2013
Reaffirmed by the ACEP Board of Directors October 2006
Originally approved by the ACEP Board of Directors October 1998

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) believes that the efficacy of early defibrillation with automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) is proven and widely accepted.  Early defibrillation programs should be promoted in a widespread manner as an integral component of coordinated systems of care designed to maximize the potential for neurologically intact survival of cardiac arrest victims.

AEDs should be carried on all basic life support ambulances. AEDs should also be available to all medical first responders, especially police and fire personnel, and to other designated first responders in highly congested population areas. AEDs should also be available in the community in public assembly areas for prompt use by lay responders.

ACEP endorses the widespread availability of AEDs and the implementation of early defibrillation programs coordinated with a health care delivery system to ensure the following:

  • Immediate activation of the EMS system for the cardiac arrest victim
  • Immediate delivery of CPR/quality, uninterrupted chest compressions as appropriate.
  • Early defibrillation
  • Prompt transport  of resuscitated patients to an emergency medical facility capable of providing aggressive management of resuscitated cardiac arrest and post-arrest intervention including therapeutic hypothermia 
  • Public education programs to promote rapid recognition of cardiac arrest, activation of the EMS system, quality bystander chest compressions and right-timed defibrillation.

All of these factors are critical to ensure that the EMS personnel can optimally treat victims of cardiac arrest. Appropriate monitoring of quality of care and outcomes must occur. Legislation may be necessary in some locations to allow for medical first responders to use AEDs.

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