I went to a town in New Hampshire on Wednesday to update some AEDs. I updated six Philips FR2+ for the police department and two Philips FR2+, two Laerdal FR2, and two Laerdal HeartStart 4000 for the fire department. The town also has a single Medtronic CR Plus. I had rescheduled these updates several times when Medtronics had repeatedly slipped the ship date for the CR Plus software and claimed that the next stated date was a truly firm date. As I have mentioned in the past, I had several clients who I had to repeatedly reschedule due to Medtronic’s musical ship dates.

Medtronic had recently (well, middle March) claimed that the software would be out by April 16. Of course, on January 12 they had claimed January 21, on the 22nd they said ‘any day now’, on February 8 they said ‘by the end of the month’… I stopped logging the specific claims on the 8th of February. Suffice it to say that I did not have it by the end of February or the end of March. One of the clients, a hospital with eight CR Plus units, finally asked me to stop rescheduling and to just call when I finally got the software. The township had a bunch of Philips(/Laerdal) and only one Medtronic so decided to update the Philips and do the CR Plus when the software became available.

I drove 80 miles to the New Hampshire municipal client on the 11th and 80 miles back to find the CR Plus software waiting for me at the office. Sheesh. Of course, I have to make a special trip back to that client to do the CR Plus, another 160 miles, and I feel bad about charging the client travel twice. So I’ll end up eating the travel cost. Maybe Medtronic could cover the $122.50 fee for my being a good sport? I won’t bother to ask, but it’s fun to think about.

Today I went and upgraded the eight CR Plus units at the hospital. I hadn’t actually examined a CR Plus before today though I’m pretty familiar with the Medtronic (Physio) LIFEPAK 500. I noticed a severe design defect as soon as I took the first unit out of its case; the unit has no text display. This means that the unit can not be effectively operated by someone who is hearing impaired. The voice prompts are loud but a deaf person will have no clue what they are supposed to do. Not ADA compliant, I’d think.

I pointed this out to my contact at the hospital; she was shocked.

Let’s compare the Medtronic Physio-Control CR Plus with my personal favorite basic AED, the Cardiac Science G3 Plus.

Warranty… CR Plus, 5 years. G3, 7 years.

Soft Case… Included with each. The CR Plus requires that the ‘ready kit’ and additional pads (beyond the installed set and one spare set) each be separately clipped onto the outside of the case by a single point of contact, unwieldy IMHO. The G3 case has a zippered storage pouch large enough to hold the ready kit (which can also be *securely* clipped to the outside of the case), several spare sets of pads, data connection serial cable, and the software CD.

Data Transfer Mechanism… CR Plus, IrDA. G3, serial cable. CR Plus wins this category.

Data Transfer Software… CR Plus, $300. G3, included.

Battery Life… This is from the CR Plus users guide. ‘CAUTION: After completing an initial inspection, do not open the lid unnecessarily. Each time you open the lid, the defibrillator turns on and internal battery power is reduced. After 30 minutes of cumulative on time, the CHARGE-PAK indicator appears on the readiness display indicating the CHARGE-PAK battery charger and the QUIK-PAK electrode packet should be replaced’. Got that? In the upgrade instructions, they specifically state that you can not test the CR Plus unit with a patient simulator or you will need to replace *both* the ‘battery charger’ and pads.

(The units at the hospital all had stickers on them stating that they had been tested by biomeds… I wonder what testing occurred? Do they realize that all of these units are now out of compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions? The mind reels.)

What’s all this about a battery charger? The CR Plus has a ‘rechargeable internal lithium batttery’. A ‘replaceable CHARGE-PAK battery charger provides a trickle charge for the internal battery’. So why doesn’t the CR Plus just have a replaceable battery rather than two batteries, one that charges the other?

So, to recap; CR Plus, battery charger & pads must be replaced after 30 minutes of ‘on time’; $90 to replace charger and pads. Not to mention the added complexity and possible failure modes of the two battery scheme.

G3 battery; four year full replacement guarantee from the date of insertion. Five year shelf life. So, I can buy a G3 battery, put it on the shelf for four years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days, install it in the AED, leave the AED hooked up to a patient simulator running ventricular fibrillation for eighteen hours a day so I can enjoy the voice prompts and flashing lights, and if the battery fails three years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days later, Cardiac Science will replace it. Free. No questions asked. And no rubbish about not turning the unit on from Cardiac Science, either… They’ll happily provide the patient simulator (though, to be honest, a trainer may be more straightforward to train with).

The G3 battery, should you actually need to buy one, is more expensive; $325. Of course, this will get you four years of guaranteed battery life where a similar amount of money spent on CR Plus ‘CHARGE-PAK battery charger and QUIK-PAK electrodes’ will get you 109 minutes of CR Plus ‘on time’.

Usability… CR Plus semiautomatic, two buttons. G3 semiautomatic, one button. CR Plus automatic, one button. G3 automatic, zero buttons. In fairness, one of the CR Plus buttons is an on/off button which also opens the lid while the G3 powers on when the lid is opened and shuts down when it is closed, so maybe I’m picking nits here.

Both units are stored with the pads preattached.

The G3 has a text display for noisy environments or for the hearing impaired. The CR Plus does not.

Price… CR Plus; $2000. G3, $1600.

Trainer… CR Plus; $2000. G3; $350.

I really don’t know why anyone would buy a CR Plus unless they were Physio brand-loyal to the point that they did not look carefully at the other options. Even the Zoll AED Plus is superior to the CR Plus in many respects.

You know my preference; I’m familiar with a lot of AEDs. I carry a Cardiac Science. Okay, I carry the G3 Pro… But if I didn’t need the three-lead capability, I’d carry the G3 Plus. I’d certainly choose the G3 Plus as a public access defib or for EMT-Basic/First Responder usage.

You can get a G3 at CardiacSupply.com. We do carry other popular models of AEDs because we understand that people do have brand loyalties and we are happy to cater to that. We don’t bother to list the Medtronic units because, well, you can’t get them anyway.

Interesting that the current big four sturdy basic AEDs have ‘plus’ or ‘+’ in the name; FR2+, AED Plus, CR Plus, G3 Plus. Let’s show some imagination, people.