Underutilisation of public access defibrillation is related to retrieval distance and time-dependent availability


Public access defibrillation doubles the chances of neurologically intact survival following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). Although there are increasing numbers of defibrillators (automated external defibrillator (AEDs)) available in the community, they are used infrequently, despite often being available. We aimed to match OHCAs with known AED locations in order to understand AED availability, the effects of reduced AED availability at night and the operational radius at which they can be effectively retrieved.


All emergency calls to South Central Ambulance Service from April 2014 to April 2016 were screened to identify cardiac arrests. Each was mapped to the nearest AED, according to the time of day. Mapping software was used to calculate the actual walking distance for a bystander between each OHCA and respective AED, when travelling at a brisk walking speed (4 mph).


4012 cardiac arrests were identified and mapped to one of 2076 AEDs. All AEDs were available during daytime hours, but only 713 at night (34.3%). 5.91% of cardiac arrests were within a retrieval (walking) radius of 100 m during the day, falling to 1.59% out-of-hours. Distances to rural AEDs were greater than in urban areas (P<0.0001). An AED could potentially have been retrieved prior to actual ambulance arrival in 25.3% cases.


Existing AEDs are underused; 36.4% of OHCAs are located within 500 m of an AED. Although more AEDs will improve availability, greater use can be made of existing AEDs, particularly by ensuring they are all available on a 24/7 basis.

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