Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Automatic External Defibrillator?
An Automatic External Defibrillator - AED is a device used to administer an electric shock through the chest wall to the heart. The built-in computer accesses the patients heart rhythm, it determines whether defibrillation is needed and then administer the shock. Audible and/or visual prompts guide the user through the process.

How does an AED work?
A microprocessor inside the defibrillator interprets (analyses) the patients heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes. The computer analyses the heart rhythm and advises the operator whether a shock is needed. AED's advise a shock only for ventricular fibrillation and fast ventricular tachycardia. The electric current is delivered through the patient's chest wall through adhesive electrode pads.

Why do we need AEDs?
AEDs save lives. When a person has a sudden cardiac arrest ("SCA"), their heart's regular rhythm becomes chaotic or arrhythmic. Every minute that the heart is not beating lowers the odds of survival by 7% to 10%. After 10 minutes without defibrillation very few people survive.

Is an AED easy to use ?
AEDs are very easy to use. An AED can be used by practically anyone who has been shown what to do. In fact, there are a number cases where people with no training at all have saved lives.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest means that the heart unexpectedly and abruptly quits beating. This is usually caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest the same as a heart attack?
No. A heart attack is a condition in which the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked, resulting in the death of the heart muscle. Heart attack patients usually (but not always) experience chest pain and usually remain conscious. Heart attacks are serious and sometimes will lead to sudden cardiac arrest. However, sudden cardiac arrest may occur independently from a heart attack and without warning signs. Sudden cardiac arrest results in death if not treated immediately.

Why are AED's important?
AED's strengthen the chain of survival. They can restore a normal heart rhythm in sudden cardiac arrest patients. Also, new portable models allow more people to respond to a medical emergency where defibrillation is required. After sudden cardiac arrest, chances of survival decreases by 7-10 percent each minute that passes without defibrillation. AED's save lives!

What if I mistakenly apply the AED to someone who fainted but still has a pulse, which I couldn't feel?
The AED is designed not to advise a shock for a patient with a non-shockable rhythm. It would be very difficult to harm a patient even in such circumstances.

What if I forget the steps for using the AED?
The steps for shocking a patient in cardiac arrest are simple and straightforward. The defibrillator provides the visual and audio prompts required for the entire resuscitation process. The most difficult part is recognising the need for defibrillation.

Should I do CPR first or apply the AED?
Do CPR only until the AED arrives. Apply the electrodes to the patient's bare chest and follow the voice prompts and messages of the AED. It will tell you when to resume CPR. CPR is a holding action until the heart is defibrillated.

Do I need to remove the defibrillator pads before doing chest compressions?
No. The pads remain on throughout the resuscitation and until the patient is transferred to advanced care providers such as the paramedics. If the pads are in their correct locations on the passenger's chest, they will not interfere with proper hand placement or compressions. When doing compressions, make sure the cable is not under your hands.

How much of the patient's clothing needs to be removed to carry out defibrillation?
The chest should be exposed to allow placement of the disposable defibrillation electrodes. A women's bra should be removed. Clothes may need to be cut off to facilitate early defibrillation.

After I have successfully defibrillated the patient and have return of a pulse, do I keep the AED on the patient?
Yes, even after a patient has been successfully defibrillated, he/she is at risk of developing ventricular fibrillation again. The AED will continually monitor the patient for the return of VF. If VF is suspected, the device will automatically begin to analyse patient after 1 minute of CPR is complete. The AED should be left on until emergency personnel assume responsibility for the patient. The defibrillation pads (electrodes) are disposable.

What if the patient regains a pulse but is not breathing or is breathing slowly?
Give rescue breaths at a rate of 1 every 5 seconds or 12 per minute.

If the patient is breathing and regains a pulse should the patient be placed back in a seat?
No, leave the patient on the floor; monitor pulse, breathing and blood pressure closely. Place the patient in the "rescue" or side position, keep them warm, administer oxygen, and continue to monitor closely.

Do all physicians and nurses know how to defibrillate?
Not all physicians and nurses know how to defibrillate, or they may not be familiar with the type of defibrillator you are using. Once you have been trained, continue to use it. Medical personnel may be needed to administer drugs, and give other advanced medical care.

Who is using AED's today?
Flight attendants, Firefighters, Cruise ship personnel, Health club employees, Security guards, EMT's, Lifeguards, Golf Pros, Students, Physicians, Nursing Homes, Restaurant personnel and Corporate emergency response teams.

I placed the AED on a patient who had a cardiac arrest and the machine always prompted "No Shock Advised. Even with CPR the passenger did not survive. Why didn't the AED shock this patient?
Although VF is the most common rhythm in cardiac arrest it is not the only one. The AED will only shock VF. There are other heart rhythms associated with cardiac arrest that are not treated with defibrillation "shocks". A "No Shock Advised" message doesn't mean the patient's rhythm is back to normal. This is why a pulse check must always be done after a "No Shock Advised" prompt.

What if I don't perform all the steps of CPR and defibrillation perfectly?
A cardiac arrest is a high stress situation. Even experienced health care providers do not do everything perfectly. In a cardiac arrest, performing CPR, even imperfectly, and using a defibrillator can only help the patient.

Why is it so important to be sure that the defibrillation electrodes are firmly adhered to a clean, dry chest?
Successful defibrillation requires electricity to flow from one electrode to the other through the chest. If the electrodes are not firmly adhered and there is sweat or another conductive material between the electrodes, the electricity will be more likely to flow across the chest rather than through it. This will result in ineffective defibrillation and an increased chance of sparks and fire. (The main reason for removing therapeutic oxygen from the immediate vicinity of the patient.)

Is it okay to place the electrodes directly on a hairy chest?
Electrodes must come in direct contact with the skin. If the chest hair is so excessive as to prevent good adhesion of the electrode, the hair must be removed quickly.

Can I defibrillate on a wet surface?
Yes, as long as the usual safety rules are observed. Be sure the patient's chest is wiped dry. Keep the defibrillation electrodes away from a damp or conductive surface. Clear the patient and defibrillate as usual.

Can I defibrillate on or near a metal surface?
Yes, as long as the usual safety rules are observed. Keep the defibrillation electrodes away from contact with the conductive surface. Clear the patient and defibrillate as usual. Be sure not to allow anyone to touch the passenger when the shock is delivered.

What if the patient has a medication patch on or EKG electrodes on the chest where I want to place the defibrillation pads?
Never place AED electrode pads directly on top of medication patches, such as nitroglycerin, or EKG patches. Patches should always be removed and the skin wiped dry before placing defibrillator pads on the skin.

What's public access to defibrillation?
Public access to defibrillation (PAD) means making AEDs available in public and/or private places where large numbers of people gather or people who are at high risk for heart attacks live.

What is Hands-Only CPR?
Hands-Only CPR is CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths. It is recommended for use by people who see an adult suddenly collapse in the out-of-hospital setting. It consists of two steps: 1. Call 911 (or send someone to do that). 2. Begin providing high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest with minimal interruptions.

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