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Special Considerations When Using an AED

Special Considerations When Using an AED

In an emergency, every second counts. Knowing how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be the difference between life and death for someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. But what if the situation is not as straightforward as it seems? This blog post will guide you through the “special considerations when using an AED: what to know when faced with an emergency”, ensuring that you are prepared to act confidently and effectively.

Understanding AEDs and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Understanding AEDs and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart ceases to beat in a regular manner, often without warning. In such cases, an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be a lifesaver. AEDs work by delivering a shock to the heart, helping to restore its normal rhythm and potentially saving the life of the cardiac arrest victim.

However, using an AED isn’t always as simple as it seems. It’s important to consult the AED manufacturer’s user manual for detailed instructions regarding safety, operation, and maintenance when you need to use an AED on someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

In addition, it is essential to call 911, assign someone to locate a defibrillator, and commence CPR without delay when encountering symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.

Preparing for AED Use in Special Situations

Preparing for AED Use in Special Situations

In some cases, using an AED may involve unique challenges due to special circumstances such as:

  • Excessive chest hair

  • Wet or submerged patients

  • Pediatric patients

  • Patients with implantable devices

  • Those with transdermal medication patches

Knowing how to handle these situations is crucial, as it ensures that you can provide effective care for the cardiac arrest victim.

In this section, we will explore the different special situations you may encounter and provide guidance on how to overcome these challenges.

Dealing with Excessive Chest Hair

A hairy chest may seem like a minor issue, but it can significantly impact the effectiveness of an AED. Excessive chest hair can lift the electrode pad off the patient’s chest, preventing the gel on the pad from adhering to the skin and inhibiting full contact. In such cases, the shock delivered by the AED may not be as effective, especially if the patient has an implantable defibrillator.

To address this issue, the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support Provider Manual proposes three solutions: shaving the hair, using a razor to remove the hair, or utilizing a pediatric pad set, also known as child electrode pads. By taking these steps, you can ensure proper contact between the electrode pads and the patient’s skin, increasing the chances of successful resuscitation.

Managing Wet or Water-Submerged Patients

Wet or submerged patients present another challenge when using an AED. The power of the shock delivered by the AED may not be sufficient to resuscitate a wet patient, reducing its effectiveness. To ensure that the shock is delivered directly to the heart, it’s crucial to dry the chest area of the patient before applying the AED pads.

If a patient is lying on a wet surface but their chest is dry, it is still recommended to move them away from the water before using the defibrillator as normal. By taking these precautions, you can increase the chances of successful resuscitation and ensure the safety of both the patient and the AED users.

AED Use on Pediatric Patients

When using an AED on pediatric patients, it’s essential to consider the differences in their physiology. Here are some important considerations:

  • A reduced electrical shock is recommended for pediatric patients.

  • Child pads should be used if available.

  • In some cases, a manual defibrillator may be a more suitable alternative for infants under 12 months, as standard adult pads may not be appropriate.

Proper pad placement is also crucial for pediatric patients. When using adult pads, one pad should be placed in the center of the patient’s chest and the other in the center of the back. By taking these special considerations into account, you can increase the chances of effectively resuscitating a pediatric patient.

Handling Patients with Implantable Devices

Patients with implantable devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators may present unique challenges when using an AED. These devices can be identified by a scar on either side of the victim’s chest or abdomen, accompanied by a hard lump approximately the size of a deck of playing cards or smaller. The shock delivered by the AED may be blocked or the device may be damaged during AED use if precautions are not taken.

To ensure patient safety, it is recommended to place the electrode pad a few inches lower or try an anterior-posterior (front-and-back) pad placement. Avoid using a defibrillator over the skin where the pacemaker has been installed. By following these guidelines, you can minimize the risk of damaging the implantable device and ensure effective defibrillation.

Addressing Transdermal Medication Patches

Transdermal medication patches, which administer active medication through the skin, can present a burn hazard if a shock is delivered over the patch when using an AED. To avoid this risk, remove the medication patch and clean any adhesive residue from the patient’s skin before applying the AED pads.

It is recommended to wear gloves while removing the patch. This will help to prevent the medication from being absorbed by your skin. By taking these precautions, you can ensure the safety of both the patient and yourself while using an AED in this situation.

Immediately after providing an AED Shock

The question of “Which Action Should You Take Immediately After Providing An AED Shock?” is crucial for those aiming to provide life-saving care in emergency situations. Once an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) delivers a shock, it’s vital to immediately check the victim’s breathing and pulse. If the person is still not breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, continue CPR starting with chest compressions. If they begin to breathe or show signs of life, place them in the recovery position and monitor them closely until emergency medical services arrive. Additionally, always ensure that the AED remains turned on after the shock, as it will provide further instructions and may advise additional shocks if needed. Proper post-shock actions can significantly improve the victim’s chances of survival and recovery.

AED Usage Tips for Non-Medical Professionals

AED Usage Tips for Non-Medical Professionals

While medical professionals are trained to handle a wide range of emergency situations, non-medical individuals can also effectively use an AED during emergencies, considering the special situations discussed above. AEDs are designed to be user-friendly, with clear instructions and voice prompts guiding users through the process.

However, some general tips can help you feel more confident and prepared when using an AED. First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the AED device and its components, including the razor, pediatric pads, and gloves. By knowing the different parts and their functions, you’ll be better equipped to handle any situation.

Secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks to others during an emergency. Assign someone to call 911 while you focus on using the AED and performing CPR. Finally, it’s essential to stay calm and focused. Trust the AED’s instructions and follow them carefully to ensure proper usage.

Troubleshooting Faulty AED Components

Troubleshooting Faulty AED Components

In the event of an emergency, it’s crucial to quickly identify any faulty components of the AED. Should you encounter a malfunctioning component, determine if it can be replaced. If it cannot be replaced, search for another AED in the vicinity.

While it’s important to act quickly, don’t let the stress of the situation cloud your judgment. Take a moment to assess the situation and make the best decision based on the available resources. Remember, the ultimate goal is to save a life, and effectively using an AED is a key component of that process.

Safety Measures for AED Users

Safety Measures for AED Users

Ensuring the safety of both the patient and the AED users is of utmost importance. When using an AED, make sure that no one touches the patient during the delivery of the electrical shock. Proper pad placement is essential for the AED to work correctly, with one pad placed on the right side and one on the left side of the patient’s chest.

Additionally, avoid areas with flammable vapors when using an AED, as they can pose a risk during the delivery of the shock. Always follow the prompts provided by the AED device and receive proper AED training to ensure the safety of everyone involved.


In conclusion, understanding the special considerations when using an AED during emergencies is crucial for both medical and non-medical individuals. By being aware of unique circumstances, such as excessive chest hair, wet or submerged patients, pediatric patients, patients with implantable devices, or those with transdermal medication patches, you can effectively use an AED and potentially save a life. Always remember that every second counts, and being prepared to face these challenges can make all the difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which of the following is a special consideration to be aware of when using an AED?

When using an AED, special consideration should be taken for patients who are children, sweaty, submerged in water, hairy, have a pacemaker, or have a transdermal medication patch.

What are two special considerations situations to check for when using an AED?

It is important to take special considerations into account when using an AED, such as the presence of chest hair, water, pacemakers and defibrillators, and medication patches.

These factors can affect the effectiveness of the AED and should be taken into account when using it.

What is the most important thing to remember when using an AED?

The most important thing to remember when using an AED is to confirm that the victim is unresponsive, not breathing normally, and is pulseless. Additionally, it is essential that the pads are firmly stuck to a dry chest with no obstructive clothing for proper shock delivery.

Finally, press the “Power” button to turn on the device and follow the visual/audio guidance to properly use the AED.

How do I handle a patient with excessive chest hair when using an AED?

Shave the hair, use a razor to remove it, or utilize a pediatric pad set – these are the best ways to handle a patient with excessive chest hair when using an AED.

These methods are the most effective and efficient way to ensure that the AED is able to make contact with the patient’s skin and provide the necessary electrical current for the patient’s heart.

What should I do if a patient is wet or submerged in water?

If the patient is wet or submerged in water, dry their chest area and move them away from the water before using an AED.

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