Do People With Heart Disease Need To Have A Portable Defibrillator?

Question: Do people with heart disease or who have had a heart attack need to have a portable defibrillator at home or at work?

Answer: The issue of whether you should have a home automated external defibrillator or AED comes up frequently. The likelihood of any AED ever being used depends on the population around the place where it's located. It's my opinion that AEDs should be like fire extinguishers. They should be in public places, available for trained or even untrained lay persons to do the best to use the device after 911 has been called and emergency personnel have been summoned although they might not have arrived.

For patients who are at very high risk, they should really have an implantable defibrillator. But what about the patient who's in between -- not a candidate for an implantable defibrillator, but potentially at higher risk than the standard person? There is a trial ongoing, the results of which will be really soon that will give us some insight into this.

Overall, AEDs are becoming less expensive ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 or a little bit more depending on the model. So, a number of people are making the decision to have an AED at home. Now, whether you should just have a home AED, again, that's a complicated issue. Chances are you will never use it. But on the occasion that you have someone who might have been at high risk or even previously has not been shown to be at risk, having an AED at home would likely shorten the time to effectively applying emergency measures, applying the emergency shock and increasing the chance of survival from sudden cardiac arrest.