Let’s learn how to properly use an AED, so that you’ll be prepared. An automated external defibrillator is an electrical device with electronics, buttons, and incorporated algorithms that diagnose the heart rhythm and administer a shock. But using it is not as simple as it sounds; you must learn how this device works to use it on cardiac arrest patients and save lives.
There are many AED types. For instance, you may be in an emergency where only a semi-automated AED is available, so naturally, you need to know the logic behind them. On the other hand, you may have only a manual AED available.
In this article, we’ll elaborate on the proper use of different types of AEDs, how they work, and how to use them in various emergencies.
How to Properly Use an AED and How Does an AED Work?
If you want to know how to properly use an AED, you must first learn how the machine operates. At the start, you must know how to define the process of defibrillation. Defibrillation is administering electrical shocks to the cardiac arrest victim’s heart to restore and maintain the normal heart rhythm.
Cardiac arrest usually happens when the heart’s electrical system (the sinus node) is disrupted. You can use the automated external defibrillator in cardiac arrest emergencies to get the patient’s heart beating again. Nonetheless, the defibrillation process using an AED starts with analyzing the heart’s rhythm.
When you notice that a person has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, you first use the AED to analyze their heart rhythm. Depending on the type of heart rhythm – shockable or non-shockable – the device will prompt you whether electrical shocks are necessary.
If the AED you use diagnoses the heart rhythm as shockable, you must administer an electrical shock to the person’s heart through the chest. But, if the device recognizes the heartbeat as non-shockable, you must proceed to the performance of the CPR procedure.
It’s good to know that the proper use of an AED device increases the survival rate of cardiac arrest victims by 74%. Needless to say, before using the device, make sure everything is in order and then start using it as fast as you can – no more than 3 minutes after the person has experienced a sudden cardiac arrest.
How to Properly Use an AED: Step-By-Step Usage Guide
Many relevant organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross, have stressed the importance of AED devices in saving cardiac arrest victims’ lives. What’s more, they have also provided us with a framework for using the automated external defibrillator.
In general, there is a 7-step guide on how to use the AED most effectively. Following are the 7 simple steps that you should do as an SCA emergency bystander:
- Check & Call: This is the initial and the most crucial step, although it’s not directly related to AED use. Firstly, you must be sure that the person has suffered a cardiac arrest and that they need defibrillation. Next, you must call the emergency services (911).
- Find an available AED: Public places like government buildings, schools, campuses, or airports are legally bound to provide you with an AED. Once you make all the necessary checks and calls, find the available AED nearby.
- Attach the pads: Each AED device has chest pads you’ll use for heart rhythm analysis and administering electrical shocks if necessary. You can start by removing all the clothing from the upper part of the body (the chest) and attaching one pad on the upper right side of the chest and the other on the lower left side (under the armpit).
- Dry the chest if necessary: If the patient has sweat, wipe dry the chest with a dry cloth or piece of clothing before you attach the pads. Remember that you mustn’t use alcohol or wipes that contain it.
- Connect the pad and the AED if necessary: Some AEDs are designed in a way that you must plug the pad connector cable into the device. If the chest pads are already connected to the AED device, proceed to the next step.
- Analyze and shock: Press the button and wait until the device analyses and diagnoses the heart’s rhythm. If the AED recognizes the rhythm as shockable (V-Fib or V-Tach, for example), proceed to administer electrical shocks. If it diagnoses the rhythm as non-shockable, continue with CPR (chest compressions and rescue breaths).
What To Keep In Mind When Resuscitating an SCA Victim
If you follow these seven simple steps, you’ll be properly using the AED device and increase the survival chances of the SCA victim. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before administering the defibrillation.
Firstly, you must be sure that the patient has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and not another type of heart failure. You can check this by examining whether the person has experienced some of the most common cardiac arrest symptoms:
- A sudden collapse
- No consciousness
- No pulse
- No breathing
Secondly, after you turn on the automated external defibrillator, you must stick to the voice prompts that the device delivers. Each AED has an incorporated audio manual that will tell you how to analyze the heartbeat and administer shocks.
In addition, you must make sure that there are appropriate preconditions for using an AED. For instance, you must be sure that the person who has experienced an SCA hasn’t been in touch with water or that they don’t lie on a wet surface.
This also goes for conductive surfaces. If the person happens to be lying on a conductive surface, avoid giving electrical shocks until you move them or the emergency services arrive.
The Importance of CPR and How to Properly Use an AED
The proper use of an automated external defibrillator is tightly related to the proper performance of the CPR procedure. In their guidelines, the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross outline the importance of chest compressions and rescue breaths after administering the initial shock.
A reason for this is the importance of CPR in restoring and maintaining the proper blood and oxygen flow. The chest compressions mimic the heartbeat, while the rescue breaths provide artificial ventilation and oxygen to the person’s lungs.
On its own, cardiopulmonary resuscitation can double or triple the person’s chances of survival. Nonetheless, if you combine CPR with the use of an AED, you can increase the survival outcomes of the cardiac arrest victim by an incredible 49-75%.
Experts suggest that you perform a 2-minute CPR cycle after each AED shock. The usual chest-to-ventilation ratio should be 30:2 (two rescue breaths after every thirty chest compression). Moreover, you should perform 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute.
What’s even more essential is that if the AED device recognizes the heart rhythm as non-shockable, you should immediately perform CPR. This way, you’ll guarantee that the person gets the correct treatment before the emergency services arrive.
Different AED Devices and Other Requirements
Before you use a particular AED device, you must consider the differences between various automated external defibrillators. For example, you may have only a semi-automated external defibrillator.
In such emergencies, you should know which button to press to deliver a defibrillation shock. On the other hand, if you use a fully-automated AED, it will administer the electric shocks without your intervention.
Furthermore, there are requirements related to the cardiac arrest victim’s age, medical condition, and disease history. For instance, if you find yourself in a situation where the SCA victim is a child or infant, you must follow different guidelines from the general ones, but ones that also come from organizations like the AHA and the American Red Cross.
Additionally, you must know the medical condition or the person’s medical history to use an AED device properly. That’s why medical workers and healthcare providers keep a record of all the patients. In particular, if the SCA victim has a pacemaker or medication patch, you must strictly avoid giving defibrillation shocks.
There are many similar situations and preconditions which will make you reconsider the performance of external defibrillation. If you want to use AEDs properly and save lives, learn more about when to avoid defibrillation.
Final Words: How to Properly Use an AED
If you want to properly use an AED, follow the seven simple steps and combine them with a high-quality CPR procedure. This way, there’s a guarantee that you’ll increase the survival outcomes of the cardiac arrest victim.
However, don’t forget that you must learn the specifics of the different AED types and the various age group requirements. If you master all this, along with the timely and efficient assessment of the situation, you can effectively lend a hand in emergency situations.