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AED Use When to Use Automated External Defibrillators

AED Use: When to Use Automated External Defibrillators

Every second counts when someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest. With survival rates decreasing by 7-10% for every minute that passes without treatment, having access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) can make all the difference. But what exactly is an AED, and when should AED use be considered? In this blog post, we’ll dive into the critical role that AEDs play in saving lives, how to identify a cardiac arrest situation and the proper way to operate an AED. We’ll also discuss special considerations, public access to AEDs, training and certification, and the legal and ethical aspects surrounding AED use.

The Role of AEDs in Sudden Cardiac Arrest

The Role of AEDs in Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, causing an individual to suffer cardiac arrest. This can result in the cessation of blood flow to the brain and other organs, leading to sudden cardiac death if not treated promptly. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) play a significant role in treating ventricular fibrillation during sudden cardiac arrest, as they enhance survival chances when used in combination with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a medical device designed to deliver electric shocks to a person’s heart in order to restore a normal heartbeat. AEDs have the ability to analyze the heart’s rhythm and administer a shock if required, thus potentially reversing ventricular fibrillation and saving a life. Although AEDs are most effective when used by trained professionals, they are designed to be user-friendly, with clear audio and visual instructions to guide even untrained individuals through the process.

Identifying a Cardiac Arrest Situation

Identifying a Cardiac Arrest Situation

The initial step towards providing life-saving treatment is to identify the signs of cardiac arrest. Indications of cardiac arrest may include unresponsiveness and abnormal breathing, which may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED intervention.

But how can you be sure that someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, and when is it appropriate to use an AED? Let’s explore the steps to assess responsiveness and check for breathing and pulse.

Assessing Responsiveness

Upon encountering an unconscious individual, it’s necessary to establish their responsiveness and the potential need for AED intervention. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Gently tap the person’s shoulder and loudly ask if they are okay.

  2. If the person doesn’t respond, they may be experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

  3. It’s crucial to recognize agonal breathing, an irregular breathing pattern that may arise after a person’s heart has stopped beating.

  4. This gasping, snorting, or shallow half-breath can be misidentified as normal breathing, putting the person at risk of sudden cardiac death.

Discerning between agonal and normal breathing is key to deciding if an AED is required. Signs of agonal breathing may include:

  • Gasping

  • Snorting

  • Shallow half-breaths

  • Moaning

  • Twitching muscles

If a person is unresponsive and shows signs of agonal breathing, it’s time to move on to the next step: checking their breathing and pulse.

Checking Breathing and Pulse

To confirm the need for AED use, check the person for abnormal breathing and the absence of a pulse. Abnormal respiration in a cardiac arrest victim may include gasping for air, irregular or noisy breaths, or even a total stoppage of respiration. If these signs are present, begin chest compressions and simultaneously check the carotid pulse for 5-10 seconds, determining if a pulse is present. If not, prepare to apply AED pads to the victim’s bare chest.

Before using an AED, it’s significant to confirm the individual’s breathing and pulse, as this assists in identifying a cardiac arrest condition and the need for an AED. The AED determines if a shock is needed based on the person’s heart rhythm. If the individual is breathing and has a pulse, they may not require immediate defibrillation, and other interventions such as rescue breathing or CPR may be more suitable.

How to Operate an AED

How to Operate an AED

With your newfound ability to identify a cardiac arrest situation and determine when an AED is needed, it’s time to master the step-by-step operation of this life-saving device.

We’ll cover turning on the AED, applying the pads, and delivering the shock.

Turning On the Device

To turn on the automated external defibrillator AED, simply press the power button and listen to the verbal prompts provided by the device. Some AED models are designed to power on automatically when the lid is opened, providing rapid and effortless access in emergency scenarios. Upon activation, the AED will furnish clear audio and visual instructions, guiding users through the defibrillation process in an orderly manner.

Furthermore, many AED units provide visual cues like clear graphics, icons, and on-screen instructions to guide the user as the AED delivers the necessary shocks.

Applying AED Pads

Proper pad placement is crucial for the effectiveness of the AED shock. To apply AED pads on a person’s chest:

  1. Remove any clothing covering the chest.

  2. Place one pad on the upper right side of the chest, just below the right collarbone.

  3. Affix the other pad just below and to the left of the left nipple.

It’s imperative that the pads stick properly to the individual’s skin. If the victim has a hairy chest, remove some of the hair to ensure proper adhesion on the victim’s bare chest.

In the event that the person has a pacemaker or other medical device implanted in their chest, avoid placing the AED pads directly over the device. Instead, adjust the pad placement accordingly to prevent interference with the pacemaker.

Delivering the Shock

After applying the AED pads, follow the device’s instructions to safely deliver the shock. The AED will assess the person’s heart rhythm and determine if a shock is needed. Bystanders play a critical role during shock delivery; they must ensure that no one is touching the victim while the AED analyzes the heart rhythm and administers the shock. The AED will typically give a loud, commanding voice prompt of ‘CLEAR!’ before administering the shock.

Precautionary measures are vital while delivering a shock with an AED. Here are some important steps to follow:

  1. Clear the surrounding area of the patient.

  2. Ensure that no one is in contact with them during the shock delivery.

  3. Do not touch the patient while the AED is administering the electrical shock.

Special Considerations in AED Use

Despite the life-saving capabilities of AEDs, there are special considerations to keep in mind for certain situations. Let’s discuss the use of AEDs with pacemakers, on children, and in wet environments.

AEDs and Pacemakers

AEDs and Pacemakers

Using an AED on a person with a pacemaker requires extra caution. Pacemakers are small devices implanted in the chest to regulate the heart rate. When applying AED pads to a person with a pacemaker, do not place the pads directly over the device; instead, place them as close to the appropriate position as possible without being directly over the pacemaker.

This will ensure that the AED can effectively analyze the person’s heart rhythm and deliver the necessary shock without interfering with the pacemaker’s function.

AEDs and Children

AEDs and Children

The use of AEDs on infants and children requires special attention. Pediatric AED pads, designed for children aged eight or younger or those weighing less than 55 pounds, should be used when available, as they deliver a lower level of energy than adult pads. If pediatric pads are not available, adult pads may be used, but their application may need to be adjusted, with one pad placed on the front of the chest and the other on the child’s back.

Being aware of the correct pad placement and energy levels for children is key to administering effective and safe treatment.

AEDs in Wet Environments

AEDs in Wet Environments

Using an AED in CPR in wet conditions requires extra care to ensure the safety of both the victim and the rescuer. Before using the AED, try to move the person to a dry area and quickly wipe them dry if they are wet. Be sure to take any available steps to ensure a dry environment before using the AED.

For the AED to accurately analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and decide if a shock is required, proper electrode pad adhesion is crucial.

Public Access to AEDs

Public Access to AEDs

The widespread availability of AEDs in public spaces is essential for increasing the chances of survival for people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, AEDs are not universally available in public locations. Enhancing awareness and accessibility of these life-saving devices is of paramount importance. Public access to AEDs can make the difference between life and death for someone experiencing a cardiac emergency.

Organizations, businesses, and public facilities should strive to make AEDs available and easily accessible. Training employees and community members in the proper use of AEDs can also help save lives and improve overall public safety. The more people who are familiar with AEDs and know how to use them, the better the chances of survival for someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

AED Training and Certification

AED Training and Certification

Obtaining AED, CPR, and first aid certification can be a valuable skill, not only for healthcare providers and emergency responders but also for community members and employees in various industries. Certification can be obtained through authorized training agencies, such as:

  • Red Cross

  • AED Foundation

  • American Heart Association

  • American Safety Training Institute

A typical CPR and AED course lasts for about four hours and provides comprehensive training in the proper use and operation of an AED, as well as CPR and first aid techniques. By becoming certified, individuals can gain the knowledge and confidence to act quickly and effectively in emergency situations, potentially saving lives.

AED Maintenance and Care

Ensuring the effectiveness of AEDs in emergencies necessitates their proper use, storage, and maintenance. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Regularly check the AED for any issues, such as expired batteries or damaged pads, to help prevent malfunctions during critical moments.

  2. Read the user manual of your AED manufacturer for safety, operational, and maintenance instructions related to your model.

  3. Follow those instructions properly for effective use of the AED.

In addition to maintaining the AED itself, it’s important to educate family members, friends, and visitors about the location and use of the AED in your home or workplace. Regularly reviewing the instructions and practicing proper operation can help ensure that everyone is prepared to act quickly and effectively in an emergency situation.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Being aware of the legal and ethical aspects surrounding the use of an AED is crucial when employing one. Respecting Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders is important, and if a person has a DNR bracelet or tattoo, an AED should not be used. Legal ramifications for using an AED on someone with a DNR order can be complex, so it’s essential to be aware of the laws and regulations in your jurisdiction.

Good Samaritan laws generally protect unauthorized use of AEDs, granting immunity from civil liability for those who render emergency care or use an AED in good faith and without compensation. However, state laws and regulations regarding AED use may vary, so it’s advised to be aware of the laws in one’s area to ensure compliance.


AEDs play a vital role in increasing the chances of survival for people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Knowing how to identify a cardiac arrest situation, operate an AED, and understand the special considerations for different situations is crucial in saving lives. By increasing public access to AEDs, providing training and certification, and ensuring proper maintenance and care, we can make a significant impact on emergency preparedness and response.

We hope this blog post has provided valuable insights into the world of AEDs and their life-saving potential. Remember, knowledge is power, and being prepared for emergencies can make all the difference. So, arm yourself with information, get certified, and help create safer communities for all.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you clarify the “CPR AED meaning” for those unfamiliar with emergency medical terminology?

Absolutely. The “CPR AED meaning” pertains to two vital emergency procedures. “CPR” stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, which involves chest compressions and, in some cases, rescue breaths to maintain blood flow and oxygenation when the heart has stopped. “AED” refers to an Automated External Defibrillator, a device designed to administer electric shocks to the heart to restore a normal rhythm. Together, they represent a comprehensive response to cardiac emergencies.

How is the term “AED in CPR” relevant to emergency response situations?

The term “AED in CPR” refers to the integration of Automated External Defibrillators (AED) during Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) procedures. An AED is a device used to deliver electric shocks to a heart in cardiac arrest, aiming to restore its normal rhythm. When used alongside traditional CPR techniques, it significantly increases the chances of survival for the victim.

What are the 7 steps of using an AED?

The AED protocol requires checking for unresponsiveness, calling emergency services and retrieving the AED, opening the airway and checking for breathing, checking for a pulse, attaching the AED electrode pads, analyzing the heart rhythm, and finally pressing the “shock” button if advised.

Do you do CPR when using an AED?

When using an AED, CPR should be administered until it arrives, and then it can be used in combination with CPR to maximize the chances of survival. Once the AED is available, follow its instructions for continued use with CPR until the person regains consciousness or paramedics arrive.

When not to use a defibrillator?

You should not use a defibrillator if the victim has a large amount of chest hair, is suffering from a heart attack, has a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document or tattoo, there is a low battery on the AED, using adult-sized pads on a child under 8 years old, the victim is wet or lying in water, or if you are attempting to use it while in a moving vehicle.

What does AED stand for?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator, a sophisticated medical device used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest by delivering an electrical shock to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

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