3 common AED defibrillator misconceptions


AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator and is a small medical device used to restore a normal heart rhythm to a person suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), which is often mistaken for a heart attack. Most cases of SCA occur when a person’s heart starts to beat in a rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (V-fib). The heart is fibrillating very fast, rather than contracting and relaxing to pump blood throughout the body. The person will have no pulse and blood will stop flowing to vital organs, including the brain. If the heart does not return to its normal rhythm, death will occur within minutes. For a person in cardiac arrest, an AED can be the difference between life and death. Chest compressions can help circulate blood throughout the body, but immediate defibrillation with an AED is required to prevent sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Myth 1: The AED defibrillator should only be used by healthcare professionals.

CPR courses teach how to use an AED, but are not required. Modern AEDs are intended to be used by anyone at any time. Each step in defibrillating a person in cardiac arrest is guided by voice commands. Rescuers do not have to make a decision about whether to give a shock to the patient’s heart. Once the electrodes are placed on the chest, the AED automatically analyses the heart rhythm to determine whether defibrillation is required. If a rhythm such as V-fib is identified, the AED will simply deliver a shock. If a shock is not required, the AED defibrillator will display the message “No shock recommended” and instruct the user to resume CPR.

The AED defibrillator should be placed in all public access locations so that it is easily accessible in the event of a cardiac arrest. It is usually placed in the AED cabinet. This allows bystanders to re-establish a normal heartbeat while waiting for EMS. Anyone without medical knowledge can successfully operate an AED if no healthcare professional is available to help.

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Myth 2: Can an AED defibrillator shock someone by accident?

If a person’s heart is beating normally, an AED will not shock them. AEDs are designed to prevent you from accidentally shocking yourself or others. They use electrode pads and special software to check a person’s heart rhythm. aEDs are very effective at this and do this 95-98% of the time. Modern AED software can outperform first responders in determining when a shock is needed. Although AEDs have many safety features, they are not toys and should be kept out of the reach of children. In short, no, an AED will not shock someone in an accident.

Myth 3: You don’t need an AED defibrillator when you call 911.

EMS is often unable to respond quickly enough to save a person in cardiac arrest. People without a pulse due to SCA will die within minutes if their heart does not return to a normal rhythm. They need immediate defibrillation and they cannot wait for EMS to arrive. EMS response times vary depending on the environment and location, but the national average for the USA is 10-12 minutes. Sometimes EMS can take 30 minutes or more to reach rural areas. If a person with SCA does not receive immediate CPR and defibrillation from a bystander, there is little chance of survival in these situations. The immediate use of an AED before professional help arrives can save the SCA victim.

Who should buy aed equipment and where can I buy it?

Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time and in any place. AEDs are easy-to-use defibrillators and they can make the difference between life and death. You don’t have to be a medical professional to use an AED and prevent sudden cardiac death. With aed equipment, you or anyone nearby can act quickly to deliver a defibrillation shock while waiting for EMS to arrive. You can rest easy knowing that you have aed equipment ready to save someone’s life.

AEDs should be located in all public areas, including:

Health and fitness facilities
Shops and shopping centres
Swimming pools
Public transport

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