When most of us think of defibrillators, we think of what we have seen in dramatised medical programs. We imagine the word “CLEAR” and a loud noise as the patient jumps. So, it’s no wonder that I frequently see hesitation, concern, and even fear from people in a first aid course around using an automated external defibrillator (AED). Once people understand how an AED works and how important it is, I start to see that concern get replaced with confidence in their use. By answering some FAQs about AED’s, I hope to demystify the AED and increase your confidence in your ability to use one.
FAQ #1: WHY USE AN AED?
Cardiac arrest claims the lives of 33,000 Australians a year, making it the leading cause of death in Australia. An AED greatly increases the chance of survival for a person in cardiac arrest, especially if applied within the first minute. For every minute that passes where an AED is not applied, the chance of survival for that person decreases by 10%. Effective CPR can change this statistic slightly, however the facts remain that early defibrillation in the community with an AED dramatically increases survival rates and reduces disability.
FAQ #2: WHAT DOES AN AED DO?
Simply put, an AED analyses the heart rhythm to detect whether it is in one of the two shockable rhythms that it can treat. Those rhythms are called Ventricular Tachycardia and Ventricular Fibrillation, which are the 2 rhythms that may occur before the heart electricity completely stops (asystole of flatline). The earlier the AED is applied the greater the chance that the person will be in one of these shockable rhythms.
If a shockable rhythm is detected, the AED with tell the operator that a shock is advised, then it will charge and in a partially automated model (such as the majority of community ones) it prompts the user to push a flashing button to deliver a shock. The “SHOCK” is electricity that goes through the heart, momentarily stopping it to give the heart a chance to reset itself and start beating in a normal rhythm again. Think of it as similar to when you are having computer issues and you switch the computer off and then back on and it works. Once you have pushed the shock button, the AED will tell you to start CPR and only can you stop if the person starts breathing again or the AED prompts you to stop when it next analyses in 2 minutes. If a non-shockable rhythm is found, it will prompt you to start CPR until it analyses again in 2 minutes.
FAQ #3: WHO CAN USE AN AED?
Anyone that can find the on button and follow the simple prompts can use it. The instructions are so simple that specific training is not mandatory to use one, it simply increases your confidence. My 10 year old managed to correctly apply one to my manikin the other day simply by listening to the AED prompts (if only he would listen to me like that!).
FAQ #4: WHEN DO I USE AN AED?
An AED should be applied to someone who is unresponsive and not breathing. Don’t forget to call 000 and start CPR.
FAQ #5: CAN AN AED BE USED ON ANYONE?
Yes. If it is a child under 8 years of age and paediatric pads are available, then they should be used.
FAQ #6: HOW DO I APPLY THE PADS?
The pads need to be in good contact with the person’s skin. There should be scissors to help you cut away any clothing. The diagram on the pads will show you where they should be placed. Make sure the skin is dry and free from anything such as a medication patch. If it is a man with chest hair that effect the pad sticking then shave the area with the razor that should be in the kit. Remember, by now you will have called 000 and the ambulance dispatcher can talk you through if you are unsure of anything.
FAQ #7: WILL I HURT THE PERSON?
No. The AED will not shock unless the person is in a shockable rhythm. It will not shock someone breathing or in a non-shockable rhythm.
FAQ #8: CAN I BE HURT?
Not if you follow the prompts given to you by the AED and ensure you are not touching the person when the shock button is pushed. If you are, it is highly unlikely that anything more than a tingle will happen especially if you are wearing gloves. In contrast, if you don’t use an available AED, the chance is high that the person will not survive.
FAQ #9: AM I BETTER TO WAIT FOR THE PARAMEDICS IF I DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE AN AED?
No, all you need to do is turn it on and follow the prompts. Remember every minute that goes by without an AED the chance of survival goes down by 10%. Paramedics do an amazing job but there is always a time delay between calling them and their arrival.
In the case of a sudden cardiac arrest, something is always better than nothing. When used together with effective CPR, an AED has the power to dramatically increase survival rates. They are simple to use as long as you listen to them… if my son can then you can too! As AED’s become more available in the community, the survival rates of community cardiac arrest are starting to improve. Keep an eye out for the green AED signs that show you where they can be found in your local community. Remember you don’t need to be trained to use one, it simply increases your confidence. If you haven’t completed CPR training within the last year then contact Head2toe First Aid today to find out what training is best for your needs.
Contact me now to find out what course would best suit your needs or book into my next Community Parent/Caregiver First Aid course on Wednesday 20 March. Alternatively, I’m holding a Children’s First Aid Course for 2019 on Sunday 14 April. Both events are held at the Holdfast Bay Community Centre.
Click on the link below to book now! More details can be found on my website or Facebook page.
This article was written for information and education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article.