What is an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED)?

If you’re wondering what an AED is, and why we Cardiac Science wants to make them as commonplace as fire extinguishers, you’re not alone. At the centre of our mission to make environments like such as homes, workplaces, schools, and workplaces communities heart-safe, more people than ever are curious about what AEDs do. So, what exactly is an AED?

What does it stand for?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator – don’t worry, it’s much easier to use than it is to say.

What is a defibrillator?

An Automated External Defibrillator is a machine that delivers a high-energy electric shock through the heart of a person in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). This high-energy electric shock is called defibrillation. The aim of this shock is to return a heart to its normal working rhythm following an SCA.

How does it work?

Defibrillators are intuitive to operate meaning that a rescuer does not have to be formally trained to make a potentially life-saving difference. They have spoken, step-by-step instructions on the machine, and often there are diagrams to guide you through the whole process.

Of course, if you suspect someone is in sudden cardiac arrest, you should call 999 immediately. Or even better, get someone else to call them while you operate the defibrillator.

To begin the rescue you will need to lift the lid or press the start button on the defibrillator. You will be told to place the pads on the patient’s torso. Remove the pads from their pouch and peel them from the plastic. Now stick stick them onto the patient’s bare chest making sure to place them in the correct positions. The pictures on the defibrillator pads will help show you where to place them.

The device will then analyse the patient’s heartbeat for an irregular rhythm. The AED automatically recognises a heartbeat that requires a shock. If it identifies that it can help, it will signal you to press the shock button – you won’t have to press anything on fully automatic AEDs . The shock can restore the heart back to a normal rhythm.

If the defibrillator tells you ‘no shock required’, continue with CPR and wait for further instruction from the device until the emergency services arrive.

Not sure how to perform CPR? Learn more to get a better idea of what to do in a medical emergency.

How to use an AED

What types of defibrillator are there?

There are two main types of AED, semi-automatic and fully automatic.

A semi-automatic AED will instruct the user to deliver a shock to a patient by pushing a button on the machine. Alternatively, a fully automatic AED will administer the shock automatically without any intervention from the user.

How do I choose an AED?

In an emergency situation the most important factor at play is time – every second counts. In fact, when an SCA occurs, chances of survival decrease by 10% for every minute that passes without defibrillation.

For this reason, an AED needs to be accessible and easy to use. We believe that with the right AED, anyone can save a life.

Semi-automatic AEDs put the rescuer in control of pressing the button to administer the shock to the victim if a shockable rhythm has been detected. This can be desirable because it allows rescuers to ensure nobody is in contact with the patient’s body at the time of the shock as an AED is unable to detect if someone else is touching the patient. Semi-automatic AEDS are often favoured by medically trained officials.

Following placement of the pads and analysis of the heart (making sure a shockable rhythm has been detected), a fully-automatic AED administers the shock to the patient without human intervention. The rescuer just needs to make sure that no one is touching the patient when the shock is delivered. Fully-automatic AEDS are often favoured by communities, schools, and workplaces etc.

If you are unsure if you need a fully or semi-automatic AED, please contact Cardiac Science for more information.

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Why are AEDs necessary?

A sudden cardiac arrest is considered a medical emergency and immediate action needs to be taken, otherwise it could be fatal. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) kills nearly 1750,000 people every year in the UK and is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths1.

For these reasons, it’s essential that in the event of an emergency an AED is close at hand. It could mean the difference between life or death for someone. That’s why at Cardiac Science, we’re doing all we can to help people get life-saving AEDs in their homes, schools, offices, shopping centres and much more.

Learn more about our specific AED solutions

Learn more about sudden cardiac arrest and defibrillators in our Education hub

1. https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/our-research/heart-statistics – bhf-cvd-statistics-uk-factsheet.pdf

Posted on November 7, 2017