Programs underway to increase use of AEDs in Japan

by Koichi Tsujimura

Kyodo

Programs are underway throughout the country to train ordinary people to use automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, to help heart attack victims.

A smartphone app that informs people who know CPR if someone nearby has gone into cardiac arrest was tested in Tokyo’s Ueno Park in June. The free GPS-based program, called Heart Rescue, can be activated by the person having the heart attack or a witness.

Dr. Kensuke Igarashi said he developed the app to “efficiently connect people who have learned the resuscitation method to persons in need of help.”

An AED is a portable device that delivers an electric shock, if necessary, to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.

The government made AEDs available to the public 10 years ago and they are a common site all around Japan, but they are rarely used.

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, some 23,800 cardiac arrest cases were recorded in 2012. The rate of survival a month later was 8.6 percent when ambulances were called, 14.2 percent when cardiac massage or other resuscitation techniques were applied, and 41.4 percent when AEDs were used.

However, AEDs were used in just 3.7 percent of all cases.

“People should be aware of where AEDs are available and use them without hesitation” when necessary, said Hideo Mitamura, vice president of the Japanese Heart Rhythm Society.

More than 350,000 AEDs have been installed in schools, hospitals and other facilities across the country, Mitamura said. In Tokyo, they are available at all of the nearly 1,000 police boxes, as well as regular police stations.

In addition, an increasing number of local governments are financing and installing AEDs in 24-hour convenience stores. In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, AEDs are available at more than 90 percent of convenience stores.

When an AED is used, a cardiac massage should be applied to circulate oxygen in the blood at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute, Mitamura said. He added that it’s important for people to repeat the lessons to keep their skills sharp in case of an emergency.

The city of Saitama began a training program this year to help elementary school pupils learn resuscitation techniques while students at junior high schools are taught how to use an AED.

Kazuki Takahashi, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, saved the life of a man in his 30s during a marathon race three years ago by combining an AED and cardiac massage. This was when he was still a student at a professional training college. He was able to use the device thanks to the lessons he repeatedly took at a fire station near his home starting when he was in elementary school.

“I was nervous at first when I applied (the AED) to a real person but did so with confidence,” Takahashi said.