If you’ve taken a CPR class you should have received training on automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and their use. AEDs are easy to use, life-saving devices. Whether trained or not, some people have heard stories, have seen various depictions in the media or have uncertainties for various scenarios and situations. Many of these are covered in a standard CPR/AED class and covered here in this article.
First, you may have witnessed a TV show, movie or perhaps heard stories of someone taking an AED off a wall, attaching it to a conscious person and shocking them, perhaps even damaging their heart or sending them into cardiac arrest. The stories of people using an AED at a party for fun and it injuring someone have been around a long time. The truth is, unless the AED has been modified, is severely defective, or in fact, not an actual AED, this is not possible. It does not matter who is operating the device; it could be a doctor, an ER nurse, or an engineer from the actual AED company, it does not matter, AEDs will only read and deliver a shock if it is truly needed based on the electrical rhythm of the heart. The AED must analyze the person’s heart rhythm and then will only charge up to give a shock if it recognizes an electrical rhythm in the heart in which the shock could correct it, generally V-fib or V-tach which are fancy terms for the heart quivering or not fully beating. You can’t ‘shock’ someone just for fun, just like an AED won’t work on someone or something with NO electrical rhythm as well.
Next, along those lines, many people believe that an AED STARTS (or Restarts) a stopped heart or heart with no electrical rhythm. This isn’t true, more accurately, an AED analyzes the electrical rhythm of the heart and delivers a shock to a heart ‘quivering’ or not beating as it should be to STOP the heart (very momentarily) so that it will restart/reset itself back to its normal electrical rhythm. Think of an AED like a reset button, not like a set of jumper cables as you see in the movies.
Another myth is that AEDs can’t be used on children or infants as they are too small or frail for its use and it will only ‘hurt’ them. Again, an AED will only deliver a shock if it can help the heart and in fact the science shows an AED should be used on anyone, regardless of age in cardiac arrest. They even make child/infant (pediatric) pads or modifications for most units which you can learn about in a CPR/AED class. These classes will also cover scenarios if someone is very hairy, wet or in water, has a previously implanted pacemaker or device, has a medication patch and other concerns. There are ways to shave, move, dry, remove or work around all of these obstacles that you’ll learn. Even if someone is pregnant an AED can (and should) be used as it’s above the belly, on the upper right and lower left chest area. It should not harm the fetus and if the mother dies than so would the baby.
Because an AED will only shock a heart that needs a shock to be reset, if available, you should always get and hook up an AED to anyone in suspected cardiac arrest and use it along with quality CPR to give them the best chance of survival. The chance of survival goes down roughly 10% each minute that is delayed from when a person’s heart needs the AED shock, it is truly a life-saving device! Take a CPR class, learn more about this incredible device and be prepared to help someone in need!