AEDs: What They Are and How to Use Them

blankCardiac arrest is a serious condition that can kill a person rather quickly. Fortunately, treating someone in cardiac arrest is not as hard as it once was. Thanks to an invention known as the automated emergency defibrillator (AED), more people than ever before are surviving cardiac arrest incidents.

Technological advancements in recent years have made it possible for engineers to build automated defibrillators that can be used by the average citizen without any formal medical training. In the UK AED’s and defibs can now be found in all sorts of public places including underground and over-ground train stations, shopping centres, sports stadiums, schools, etc. They are actually all around us.

Time is of the Essence

Long before there was any such thing as an AED, treating somebody suffering from cardiac arrest was a matter of administering CPR. You would perform CPR until an ambulance arrived, whereupon trained EMTs would take over. Today’s ambulances have AEDs on board but waiting for one to arrive could mean the difference between life and death. Time is of the essence when you are talking about cardiac arrest.

If a person in cardiac arrest can be treated with an AED right away, his or her chances of survival increase substantially. Thus the push to install AEDs in public places. The beauty of these devices is that they are largely automated. The little bit human beings have to do to make them work is explained by illustrations and audio prompts.

How They Work

Cardiac arrest is a situation in which a person’s heart stops beating. Medical science has proven that when this happens, a quick jolt of electricity is often enough to get the heart started again. Providing electricity is the point of the defibrillator.

Manual defibrillators have been in use by EMTs and ambulance crews for decades. What’s different about the AED is that you don’t need any formal training to use it. You just turn the machine on and follow the directions. When used properly, it provides an electrical shock to the patient, thereby starting the heart beating again.

Now would be a good time to point out the fact that CPR is often necessary while an AED is being located. Remember that every minute counts. If it takes someone five or six minutes to locate an AED, that is a time in which the patient could die. Irreparable heart damage could be realised even if the patient survives. This dictates that CPR should be started immediately in a cardiac arrest situation. An AED acts as a supplement to that CPR.

How to Use an AED

AEDs have been intentionally designed to be as easy to use as possible. As soon as you notice someone in cardiac arrest, the first thing to do is instruct someone else to call for help. Look around for an AED or ask a staff member where their machine is kept. AEDs in the UK are stored in bright green boxes with signage mounted above to draw your attention.

With AED in hand, you can get to work. You take the enclosed pads out of their packaging and attach them to the chest of the patient after opening the clothing and wiping away any perspiration and dirt that might be present. Placement is determined by the age of the patient, so follow the prompts carefully.

Each of the pads will have a wire running between it and the AED device. As soon as the pads are in place, the device begins monitoring heart rhythm. It delivers electricity as needed to get the heart pumping again. It may instruct you to perform CPR, so it is still important to have that skill.

Once the heart starts beating again, the machine will instruct you in the next steps to take. Whatever you do, do not disconnect the AED. Just leave it be until professional help arrives. They will know what to do with it.

AEDs Save Lives

The AED might be the most important medical device to have been invented in the last 50 years. This simple but effective machine makes it possible for anyone to deliver life-saving treatment even without professional training. And given how common cardiac arrest is, that capability is pretty important. To say that AEDs save lives is to simplify the momentous.

As mentioned a few times already in this piece, it is still well worth pointing out that emergency CPR is a vital skill to have. So if you have never been trained in first aid, consider taking a certification class. First-aid training requires a minimal investment of time and money in comparison to the skills learned.

Even without formal training, do not allow fear to prevent you from utilising an AED in an emergency situation. The AED’s inventor purposely designed the device to be usable by just about anyone. If you can remain calm and focused in the face of an emergency, you might possibly save a life by using an AED.