A defibrillator, also known as an AED (automated external defibrillator), can save someone’s life if they experience a sudden cardiac arrest. If first responders know how to use a defib to restore a normal heartbeat, the chances of survival increase dramatically to more than 70%.
You’ve probably seen a defibrillator in a medical setting or a public access setting like a community centre or school, whether you’re a medical professional or not. Knowing how to use an AED is a skill that is important in saving a life.
If someone nearby was to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), would you know what to do? Even if there is an automated external defibrillator (AED) nearby, if you are unsure how to use it, or are afraid to use it, this can result in severe consequences for the patient. Using an AED is quite simple, and it comes with step-by-step instructions explaining how to use it in the event of an SCA.
We’re here to breakdown some of the most common myths and misconceptions about these vital life-saving devices.
Myth #1 – You need training to use a defibrillator
Although training can help you to be more prepared, you don’t need to be a trained professional to use an AED. Some AED models provide coaching feedback to the user through voice prompts. Most modern defibrillators are designed to be used by anyone in case of emergency, including those who are not medically trained. These portable defibrillators use voice prompts to guide you step-by-step through the resuscitation process and inform you where to place the electrode. The system uses an internal computer to automatically monitor the patient’s heart rhythm and shock the patient’s heart to restart it.
Myth #2 – A defibrillator can restart a stopped heart
One common misconception about defibrillators is that their primary function is to restart a heart that has completely stopped. The purpose of the defibrillator is to first detect any unusual or erratic heart rhythms before delivering a shock to restore the heart to its normal rhythm. When a person’s heart stops beating and it’s no longer contracting and pumping blood, an AED will not help; instead, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) will be required to keep blood and oxygen flowing.
Myth #3 – Using an AED can give you a shock too
According to The American Journal of Emergency Medicine study, the injury rate for paramedics was one per 1,700 shocks and one per 1,000 shocks for emergency medical technicians. Before delivering a shock, AEDs usually give a warning “do not touch the patient.” If the AED does not detect an abnormal cardiac rhythm, it will not deliver a shock to the patient. If you touch the patient while a defibrillator shock is being administered, you will only feel a minor twinge/tingle. During emergency resuscitation, all caregivers MUST wear personal protective equipment, including gloves. In case, if a current is accidentally conducted while giving AED, the gloved hand can easily minimise any current that is passed from the patient to the caregiver.
Myth #4 – If someone has a pacemaker you should not shock them with a defibrillator
While pacemakers are designed to withstand AED shocks, you should not use a defibrillator over the skin where the pacemaker is implanted. However, you need to be more careful while using a defib. Follow the user manual’s guide for responding to victims with pacemakers and positioning the AED pads as directed. When applying a Defibrillator pad to someone who has a pacemaker, the golden rule is to place it a few centimetres closer to the casualty’s arm, away from the medical patch.
Myth #5 – You do not need to use an AED if an ambulance is on the way
As soon as a person suffers from SCA, AED should be administered to give the patient the best chance of survival. According to the Ambulance Victoria report, the median ambulance response time for all emergency cases is around 15.7 minutes, with 40% of the most urgent cases failing to meet the 10-minute target. When a person suffers from SCA, every minute counts, and every minute without defibrillation reduces the person’s chances of survival by 10%. These critical minutes are referred to as the Survival Gap. They’re the moments between someone experiencing an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, and paramedics arriving to try and save their life. You must use the AED or perform CPR until the emergency medical team arrives.
Myth #6 – AEDs should never be used when someone is wet
Since AEDs deliver an electrical shock, it is risky when using on someone who is wet, but it is possible – you must use extreme caution when treating patients. If there’s water on the victim’s chest, the electric shock will get transmitted across the water rather than through the victim’s body. The AED adhesive electrode pads won’t stick to the patient’s chest until the skin has thoroughly dried, which can hinder the strength and effectiveness of the delivered shock. When the person’s skin is dried, turn on the AED and follow the instructions as you would during a normal response. Furthermore, if any flammable materials, such as solvents or fuel, are nearby, move away from the source of the materials before using the device.
Myth #7 – You can’t use adult AED pads on a child
Although AEDs are designed for adults, paediatric settings and pads can reduce the energy level, making them suitable for young children weighing less than 55 pounds. The American Heart Association recommends paediatric attenuated pads for children under the age of eight and infants. Adult pads can be used on children as young as eight years old. In case the infant or pediatric settings are not available on pads, rescuers can use adult pads on infants and young children. Apply one pad to the front of the chest and the other to the child’s back so that the pads do not come into contact with one another.
Myth #8 – You don’t need to use an AED if you’re performing CPR
CPR buys time and helps circulate blood throughout the body, but someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest requires an electrical shock from an AED to survive. The sooner this shock is delivered, the better the chances of survival.
Myth #9 – AEDs are costly and can only be used once
High-quality AEDs are surprisingly inexpensive and can deliver a significant number of shocks (up to hundreds of shocks) before their batteries or pads need to be replaced. AEDs have a lifespan of 10-15 years, depending on how frequently they are used and where they are stored. It is critical to choose an AED from a reputable supplier who can deliver a leading brand product, making them more effective and durable.
Keep in mind, that the AEDs price is determined by the additional features and components you select for the device. These can range from wall mounts to signage and emergency response kits. To determine your final cost, you’ll need to consider which AED accessories you want to purchase with your device.