Does a defibrillator restart a stopped heart?


We’ve all sat in suspense, watching our favourite Hollywood medical dramas, as flatlining patients are jolted back from the brink by fearless doctors wielding electric paddles. But just how accurate is this? Can a defibrillator really restart a stopped heart? The answer may surprise you.

What is a defibrillator?

An automated external defibrillator, or AED, is a machine that sends a high energy electric shock to the heart of a patient in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). When a person is in sudden cardiac arrest, it means that their heart is in fibrillation. Fibrillation is a quivering or irregular heartbeat. One of the most effective ways to return a heart to a normal rhythm is with an AED. As the name suggests the AED defibrillates the heart.

In an emergency situation, using a defibrillator really could save someone’s life. However, the high-octane world of film and TV may have given you the wrong idea of what an AED actually does.

Does an AED actually restart a heart?

In short the answer is no; there is a misconception that the heart stops during an SCA. In fact it continues to beat in an irregular way (fibrillation) which prevents it from pumping oxygenated blood around the body to the brain and other vital organs. The AED is used to try and defibrillate the heart. It provides a shock to try and return the heart to its normal rhythm.

When do you use a defibrillator?

If you come across someone who’s unresponsive, unconscious, or not breathing or not breathing normally you should call 999 immediately.   You should then start CPR straight away. If you are situated close to a defibrillator, go and get it or better yet get someone to retrieve it whilst you continue with CPR.

Defibrillators are located in more and more places including workplaces and public spaces such as train stations, shopping centres and airports.

You don’t need to be formally trained to a use a defibrillator, they are designed to talk you through the rescue process, step by step. In fact, thanks to spoken and on-screen instructions and automatic heart analysis , anybody can use an AED.

Get in contact today.

If you have any more questions about how to respond in an emergency situation, or would like to look into installing an AED system, get in contact today.