There are few more heartbreaking scenes than watching a child in physical trouble without being able to help them. Devastating at any age, it is especially difficult when the child is very young. Although rare, there are instances where children experience cardiac arrest and would require life-saving intervention. The question then becomes, is it safe to use an AED on an infant?
Cardiac Arrest and Children
According to the National Institute of Health, more than 16,000 pediatric patients experience cardiac arrest in the US every year. The majority of the children affected are under one year of age, with males representing a slightly higher proportion of the victims. Most of the cases of cardiac arrest in children happen as the result of a respiratory problem where the child’s breathing is compromised in a way that ultimately results in a heart attack. Unfortunately, the survival rate to discharge from the hospital is only 13 percent with only 62 percent not experiencing significant neurological impairment as a result. As with adult patients, children who experience cardiac arrest in a hospital setting are more likely to survive than those who experience it outside of the hospital. With such daunting statistics, it may seem as though using an AED in an emergency situation does not produce the desired outcome the way it can in adults.
AEDs and Infants
As they are sold, AEDs are approved for use by adults and children over the age of eight, who weigh more than 25 kg (55 lbs). Some manufacturers also sell AED cables and pads that reduce the amount of electricity that is administered by 50 to 70 joules, making the AED safer for children under the age of eight. That being said, an AED should only be used on a victim who is in confirmed cardiac arrest with ventricular fibrillation, a condition where the lower chambers of the heart quiver rather than beating rhythmically. If a child is between the ages of one and eight-years-old, in confirmed cardiac arrest, and the pediatric cables and pads are available, the AED can be used. If pediatric cables and pads are not available and the child is in cardiac arrest, the adult AED can be used as a last resort. However, it is important to note than an AED should never be used on an infant under the age of one, regardless of whether or not pediatric pads are available. Instead, CPR should be performed until an emergency medical team can attend to the victim.
While cardiac arrest can be devastating to any family, having it occur in a child is especially heartbreaking. Keep in mind that the best way to avoid having to make the decision of whether or not to use an AED on a child is to seek medical attention any time your child is experiencing respiratory problems, seizures, chest pain, or prolonged illness. For more information on AEDs or to purchase one for your home, office, school, daycare, or other settings, contact us today!