An Automated External Defibrillator, commonly referred to as an AED, is a great tool in saving the life of a person in cardiac arrest. CPR in conjunction with an AED gives a victim the best chance of survival in a cardiac emergency. Every minute that use of an AED is delayed, the victim’s survival rate decreases by 10%. Remember that to truly be prepared for an emergency that you should take a hands on class like a CPR/ AED course from your local American Red Cross.
What Is An AED?
An AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, is a life saving device that consists of a battery unit to provide the ability to shock a victim, a monitoring computer that allows the AED to determine when to shock depending on the victim’s heart impulses or lack there of, and two sticky pads that attach to the victim’s chest to deliver the shock through the heart in an attempt to reset the electrical impulses to normal.
There are many types of AEDs, but they all have the same basic components and serve the same purpose. Getting to know the functions of the specific unit you might possibly use in an emergency is the best way to build confidence.
AEDs can be found in airports, stadiums, public schools, office buildings, and any other place where large numbers of people gather. They are becoming so affordable that small businesses and private residences are even able to purchase an AED.
Prior To Using The AED
Always check for signs of life for an adult including checking for unconsciousness, breathing, and making sure they have a clear airway by giving two rescue breaths. Call 911 to get help on the way. If the airway is clear, but they are unconscious and not breathing, then you would immediately begin CPR until an AED was available. If an AED was immediately available, don’t delay using the AED to give CPR.
A common misconception is that CPR will restart the heart in an adult that is suffering a cardiac emergency. CPR only keeps blood flowing to vital organs and delays brain damage. It will not reset the electrical impulses of the heart. Only an AED or the advanced tools available to paramedics can restart the heart.
Using The AED On An Adult
Turn the AED on first. The AED will guide you to remove the person’s shirt so that you can attach the electrode pads to the chest. One pad goes on the victim’s lower left side and the other on the upper right side of the chest so that the shock will go directly through the heart. After attaching the pads to the chest, plug the pads into the machine if not already connected.
The AED is a very user friendly machine and it will determine whether the person needs a shock by reading the electrical impulses during the analyze function every two minutes. In between those two minutes, the rescuer continues CPR until the machine is ready to analyze again. The rescuer should continue the cycle of CPR, analyzing, and possible shock until advanced medical care arrives or an obvious sign of life returns such as movement, breathing, or speck from the victim.
Precautions When Using the AED
An AED is an electrical device. Therefore it’s important to use caution around water. Don’t use an AED if the victim is in a large puddle of water, extremely wet, or in heavy rain.
It is necessary to dry the person’s chest off so that the pads get a good stick. Many AEDs also come with razors so that you can remove excess chest hair.
When drying the chest, don’t use alcohol as this can cause a bad burn when shocking.
Don’t use an AED around anything flammable such as gas pumps or oxygen tanks.
Don’t use an AED in a moving vehicle. The movement can give a false analyze reading when the machine evaluated the victim.
Use only an AED marked adult on an adult and a child’s machine on children. An adult is considered anyone of at least 8 years of age and at least 55 pounds in weight.
Remove any medicine patches from the chest. It could be a nitroglycerin patch, and in the heat of an emergency you don’t have time to identify it. Remove the patch with a gloved hand and place it on the person’s clothing. Make sure to inform the paramedics of the removed patch.
Don’t use a cell phone within 6ft of the AED. It can interfere with the analyze reading.
The most important consideration when using an AED is to not tough the victim when the AED is analyzing or shocking. The rescuer could be injured by the shock or the machine could falsely analyze the rescuer’s heart pulse instead of the victim’s. Make sure that anyone in the vicinity also stands clear during the analyze and shock process.