Critical Need for Automated External Defibrillators in Nursing Homes

As the placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) is becoming more common in public areas –including shopping malls, schools, churches, football stadiums, municipal buildings and airports – it’s surprising that more nursing homes don’t have AEDs.

“Lack of Early Defibrillation Capability and Automated External Defibrillators in Nursing Homes,” a 2007 study in the Journal of the Association of American Medical Directors found that only 16.7% of nursing homes surveyed had early defibrillation capabilities via manual defibrillators or AEDs and only 6.7% reported AEDs alone. The study included nursing homes in Philadelphia, Omaha, Seattle and Boston.

There are approximately 1.5 million Americans in nursing homes in 16,100 facilities nationwide (based on the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control  and Preventions’ National Center for Health Statistics). This number is expected to double between 2000 and 2050 reports a 2009 Center for Disease Control and Prevention overview of the CDCP study.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the United States accounting for an estimated 295,000 occurrences of out-of hospital SCA per year, with only an 8 percent survival rate.

A peak in the incidence of sudden cardiac death occurs between 45 and 75 years of age as a result of coronary artery disease.  When you consider the fact that the number of people needing nursing home care is going to drastically increase, and that a large percentage of that population will have heart issues, quick access to an AED on nursing home premises just makes sense.

In February 2009 New Jersey passed a bill requiring assisted living facilities to install an AED. New Jersey state senator Fred H. Madden called the bill “a common sense measure.” Maine, New York, Connecticut, Florida, and Texas have similar legislation in place. However, more legislation specific to nursing homes is needed nationwide and is likely on the horizon.


[2] Circulation. 1998; 98: 2334-2351 Sudden Cardiac Death by Douglas P. Zipes, MD and Hein J. J. Wellens, MD

Learn more about the author Whitney Brostrom