Defibrillators – Important information everyone should know


You’ve likely heard of a defibrillator or you may have even used one before. They are a life-saving piece of medical equipment and in an ideal world, everyone would have an understanding of what they are and how to use them. Here is some important information everyone should know about defibrillators.

What is a defibrillator?

A defibrillator is a device that is used to send an electric shock or pulse to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. If a casualty is experiencing an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or their heart has stopped and they are having a sudden cardiac arrest (SAC) a defibrillator can save their life. Not all defibrillators are the same, there are several types, and they all have different uses. The most common ones that non-medical professionals are likely to come across are automated external defibrillators (AEDs). They are found in a growing number of settings, including shopping centers, train stations, and many workplaces.

AED machines have voice prompts that guide the responder through the steps. There are also visual prompts to assist with the process. They have been designed this way purposefully to enable virtually anyone to help someone who is facing a potentially fatal cardiac event. Every second count, and failing to assist with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an AED machine can be the difference between life and death. The longer the brain is deprived of oxygen, the poorer the outcome for the patient. Using an AED on someone within the first 3 to 5 minutes of a cardiac arrest will increase their chances of survival from 5% to 70%. The biggest concern that most untrained people have about using an AED is that they may shock someone who doesn’t need to be, and they may hurt them. Automated external defibrillators will not shock someone who has a regular heart rhythm, so it’s something that shouldn’t prevent one from helping another if they can.

How do you use a defibrillator?

Assisting someone who is in a serious way can be frightening and overwhelming, but it’s vital that you or someone else at the scene has alerted emergency services and help is on the way. You must remain calm and follow the instructions that the defibrillator is directing. You will be guided from the very beginning until the end on what to do, there is no guesswork. This is how you can help someone who is unresponsive and not breathing:

If there is no defibrillator, you should start CPR until you have access to one or until help arrives. If there is a defibrillator available and there are bystanders, ask one of them to take the defibrillator out of its packaging and turn it on while you continue with CPR.

Direct them to cut through the casualties clothing using the scissors included in the defibrillators packaging. If the victim has hair on their chest, get the bystander to shave the areas with the razor included in the defibrillator kit as directed on the instructions. The chest needs to be dry and free of sweat, get them to wipe the chest. If the casualty is wearing a wire bra, this needs to be cut. Get the bystander to do this, the chest needs to be bare.

Once this is done, get them to remove the backing from the pads and place them onto the chest as directed. The first pad is positioned under the collarbone on the upper right side. The second is stuck below the armpit on the left side. Once the pads are attached, stop CPR so the defibrillator can analyze the heart’s rhythm. No one should be touching the casualty at this point.

From the analyses, the defibrillator will then direct you on what to do next. You should follow these instructions. If the defibrillator needs to shock the casualty, no one should be near the casualty. Press the button when the machine tells you to. Once the shock has been delivered, the defibrillator will then direct you to commence CPR compressions again for 2 minutes. The defibrillator will then re-analyze the casualty and direct you on what to do next.

If the casualty is starting to show signs of life such as breathing, opening their eyes, or coughing, place them into the recovery position, watch them attentively until help arrives, if they stop breathing again, start CPR. Keep the pads on and connected to the defibrillator, do not remove them.

Why are defibrillators so important?

Sudden cardiac arrests can happen to anyone and at any time. Time is crucial and only a small number of people survive a cardiac arrest without CPR and automated external defibrillator intervention. The chance of survival drops 10% every 1 minute without it when outside of a hospital. More and more workplaces are equipping themselves with an AED device and training their staff on how to respond if there is an emergency while at work. Having an AED or not can be life or death for some patients. There must be no hesitations and action is taken immediately to ensure the best possible outcome for the casualty. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Completing regular CPR training can give you the confidence to help someone in their time of need. Here at Paradise First Aid, we offer CPR courses along with many others. If you would like to learn how to potentially save a life one day, get in touch for more information.

I'm NOT a doctor! I'm just passionate about health and healthy leaving. The information on this website, such as graphics, images, text and all other materials, is provided for reference and educational purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. The content is not intended to be complete or exhaustive or to apply to any specific individual's medical condition.