The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently cleared for sale an automated external defibrillator that patients can buy over the counter (OTC). Advise patients that the device, called the HeartStart Home Defibrillator, is appropriate only for people in cardiac arrest who are unresponsive, not breathing, and pulseless. Not intended for use by laypeople on young children, the device is appropriate for adults or children who are at least 8 years old or who weigh at least 55 pounds (25 kg). Small pads for young children and infants are available with a prescription.
The device comes with a training video, which instructs a lay rescuer to call 911 before applying defibrillator pads to the patient's chest. The device issues voice instructions to talk the rescuer through an emergency and to inform her if the patient needs a shock. If not, the device instructs her to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). By pressing a flashing blue button, she can hear step-by-step CPR coaching.
Even though the defibrillator offers CPR coaching, advise people that taking a CPR training course is the best way to prepare for an emergency. For more information, visit the FDA's Web site at http://www.fda.gov.