What’s It Like to Use an Automated External Defibrillator?

Automated external defibrillators (AED) are a mainstay in any series or movie that’s remotely medical in nature. Some movies add dramatic tension by showing how awfully difficult it is to use an AED to save someone’s life. This often involves convoluted instructions, the use of flimsy wires and pads that fall off in times of need, and long charging times and battery charges that can only last for one shock.

While movies may depict the use of AEDs as a complicated process, the opposite is true in real life. Along with conducting CPR, operating the machine is one of the basic lessons students learn in a first aid training course in Perth or any other city. Nevertheless, AEDs are designed for easy use regardless if the operator has taken a first aid training class before or not. Let’s take a closer look at this seemingly miraculous machine.

When to Use an AED

First of all, it’s good to have a clear idea of what an AED does and when to use it. An AED is a portable, lightweight devise that delivers an electric shock to stop an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. The machine is made up of several parts: a computer, wired sensors, and a battery pack.

The shock delivered by an AED allows the heart to resume its normal rhythm after a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). An SCA refers to irregular heartbeat caused by an electrical problem. Sudden cardiac arrests can take place anywhere and anytime; its symptoms include sudden collapse, loss of consciousness, no pulse, and no breath.

AEDs are programmed to provide shock in the event of 2 types of irregular heartbeats: ventricular fibrillation (VF) and pulseless ventricular tachycardia (PVT). Most SCAs are the result of VFs, while PVTs refer to very fast heart rates that reach 180 beats per minute. If that sounds a little too complicated, don’t worry: AEDs are programmed to recognise irregular heartbeats. Upon detecting these rhythms, the machine will indicate that a shock is advised. Most modern AEDs are equipped with voice prompts and can guide the operator throughout the process.

Operating an AED: A Short Overview

In the event that anyone in your vicinity suffers from an SCA, the first course of action is to call for emergency assistance. Next would be to use the AED and apply CPR.

As mentioned before, ease of use is a main consideration in the design of AEDs. Depending on the model of the machine, the user may need to press the “on” button or simply open its cover. The user will need to expose the patient’s chest, attach the electrode pads if they are not pre-connected, and adhere the pads on the right upper anterior side of the chest and on the left lower anterior chest wall. Some preparation, such as shaving the chest, might be needed to ensure that the pads adhere properly.

After the pads are attached, make sure that no one is touching the patient. Pressing the “analyse” button will start the voice prompt and start the analysis of the patient’s heart rhythm. Depending on the unit’s model, the operator may be instructed to push a flashing button to trigger a shock. Other AEDs automatically shock the patient without any prompt from the operator.

Once the emergency service arrives, the person on the scene should inform them of what happened, the symptoms exhibited by the patient, and the steps taken to keep the patient safe.

While operating an AED is a straightforward task, it is still best to undergo training for it. First aid training will not only give you a firsthand experience in using an AED, it will also equip you with the skills and mindset needed to face emergencies like SCAs with a clear and calm head and the right attitude.

*This article is for informational purposes only and does constitute, replace, or qualify as RPL for our first aid training courses.