How To Use An Automated External Defibrillator

When a person has a heart attack, in most cases their heart will go into a fatal rhythm. It essentially means their heart cannot pump enough blood to the body and without immediate intervention, that person is likely to die. Or, if they make it, other health issues could ensue.

The only way to prevent this scenario is by using an automated external defibrillator to give the heart an electric shock and hopefully get it to its natural rhythm. The good part is that these devices can be used on people of different ages, and they’re so easy to handle that you don’t need any training to do it.

However, you do need to know a thing or two about using these life-saving devices, which unfortunately not a lot of people do. Here are some lifesaver tips on how to use an automated external defibrillator and save someone’s life!

When You Might Use an AED

For something that can do a pretty impressive thing like save a person’s life, AEDs don’t look like much. They are fairly small, light portable devices that check a person’s heart rhythm and send a shock to the organ and bring it back to its normal beating rhythm.

This device has sticky pads with electrodes (which are sensors) that you will attach to the chest of the person in need. The computer inside the AED will ultimately decide if there is a need for an electric shock, so you don’t have to worry about not making the right call. If the AED picks up that the person has a normal rhythm, then you won’t be able to shock the person. 

It’s vital to use these devices when a person is having a cardiac arrest, which can cause the heart to have a dangerously lower beat. Please note that a cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack:

Heart attacks happen when a blocked artery prevents blood from reaching a section of the heart, but it does not generally cause any changes in cardiac rhythm. In this case, the artery must be reopened as quickly as possible, and the AED is not necessary.

Symptoms and Causes of a Cardiac Arrest

Heart Attack

It’s essential to spot the signs of a cardiac arrest in order to offer people help when they need it. Sudden cardiac arrests can often take place out of the blue, with little to no previous warning. It’s usually triggered by a small defect in the heart’s blood arteries.

These triggers can often be harmless or have less severe symptoms and go unnoticed. However, some types of heartbeat irregularities can cause a sudden cardiac arrest.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some causes for a sudden cardiac arrest can include:

  • Various heart diseases;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Smoking;
  • Obesity;
  • Diabetes;
  • Sedentarism;
  • High blood cholesterol;
  • Drug usage, etc.

Unfortunately, sudden cardiac arrest can occur with little warning, and its symptoms are immediate:

  • Lack of pulse;
  • Collapsing;
  • No breathing;
  • Loss of consciousness.

In some cases, a sudden cardiac arrest may cause victims to show these symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort;
  • Weakness;
  • Palpitations;
  • Shortness of breath. 

Using an AED 101

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, AEDs can be used for adults, as well as children over 1-year-old. In some cases, you may find devices with pads created especially for children. 

The NHLBI also states that when the heart stops from sudden cardiac arrest, it’s imperative to administer help within 10 minutes the event took place. Otherwise, it’s possible for cardiac arrest to be fatal.

If you see a person fainted and suspect they might be having an SCA, here’s how you can help:

1. Confirm Loss of Consciousness

People suffering from an SCA are unresponsive, so you need to make sure the person in front of you isn’t having some other issues, such as a seizure or fainting.

Check to see if the person is unconscious or unresponsive (unable to react to certain signals like your voice.) You can shout or gently shake the person. If it’s a child, you can slightly pinch their arm to see if they respond – never shake a child.

2. Call 911

Even if you’re planning on using an AED, it’s imperative to call in the EMT for help. The person could be suffering from additional issues that may require emergency treatment.

3. Use the AED and Begin CPR

Automated External Defibrillator

If there are more people present, one should start CPR while another person finds the AED device. If not, rush and find the AED first, then continue with CPR until the paramedics arrive.

AEDs can be found in many public spaces like commercial buildings, schools, theatres, or even public streets. Some resources like the Staying Alive app can help you locate an AED in your area fast.

To use the AED, follow these steps:

  • Power up the device, and place it near the victim’s head;
  • Expose the victims’ chest and wipe off any moisture. Apply the AED pads, one on the right just below the collarbone, and the other on the lower left side of the chest;
  • Connect the pads to the device. 
  • If there is a person doing CPR, they mustn’t stop until the shock is ready to be delivered. The device will first analyze the victim’s rhythm and see if a shock is needed;
  • If the device says the rhythm needs a shock, make sure nobody is touching the victim, and push the shock button;
  • After the shock, continue CPR. The device will show you if the rhythm improved. If it did not, another shock may be needed.

Back to You

If you see a person collapsing and suspect they may be having a cardiac arrest, using an AED can save their lives. Remember to call 911 right away and follow the instructions on the device to the letter to effectively restore the normal cardiac rhythm.