Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are one of the most extraordinary pieces of technology in the modern world: they are a type of device designed specifically for saving lives. You might have seen them being used on TV in medical dramas, but how much do you know about defibrillators?
This guide will cover the basics of how AEDs work, how to use them, and where you can access them in public places. Read on to learn more.
What Are AEDs?
An ‘AED’, or ‘defibrillator’ as it is usually called, is a machine designed to defibrillate the heart. Atrial fibrillation is what occurs in the heart when it enters cardiac arrest. The cells inside the ventricles of the heart begin to act like individual pacemakers, which causes the heart’s rhythm to become irregular and often extremely fast. Visit the NHS page on atrial fibrillation to find out more.
The defibrillator passes an electrical current through electrodes that are attached to the chest and into the heart, shocking the heart’s cells back into a regular rhythm.
Defibrillators are used by the emergency services and are also placed in public areas and workplaces for members of the public to use. Although not included in a standard First Aid Kit, it’s easy to buy defibrillators online.
Are Defibrillators Dangerous?
Many people ask the question: ‘can defibrillators kill you?’ It’s a natural query given the power of the machine; however, modern defibrillators are not considered dangerous. The electric shock when passed through the heart could save someone’s life, but it’s unlikely to hurt them even if they’re not having a cardiac arrest.
A defibrillator first uses a processor to automatically assess the heart and check for irregularity, and will not function unless it is needed, as it is equipped with a safety element that prevents unnecessary shocks from being delivered.
Benefits of Defibrillators
A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. If left untreated, the majority of cardiac arrests are fatal. For every minute left untreated after a cardiac arrest has taken place, the patient’s survival chances drop by up to 10%. However, if a defibrillator is used within 5-7 minutes of the cardiac arrest taking place, the chances of survival increase by more than 65%.
A defibrillator is designed to be easy to use, so you don’t have to be a medical professional to operate one and potentially save someone’s life.
Having an AED in a workplace, school or another communal area, along with a trained First Aider, is one of the most powerful tools for securing the safety of workers, students or the general public. Should someone suffer a cardiac arrest, fast action is needed.
Once the emergency services have been contacted there is still a waiting period in which time the patient has the potential to die. More than 90% of cardiac arrest deaths occur on the way to the hospital, which shows just how important the initial moments after the attack are.
A defibrillator puts the power back into the hands of those present and makes a dramatic difference to someone’s chances of survival after a cardiac arrest.
Where to Find AEDs and Defibrillators
Across the UK, there are public AEDs and defibrillators available for public use. Should someone suffer a cardiac arrest in a public place, there is almost certainly a defibrillator nearby for you to access. Here are some of the places where public defibs are usually placed:
- Train stations
- Shopping centres
- Community centres
- Leisure centres
Heartsafe makes it easy to search and view online the locations of your nearest AEDs. If you are in an emergency situation, dealing with someone having a cardiac arrest, and you’re not sure where the nearest defib is, you can contact the emergency services and they’ll be able to tell you where to find it.
If you’ve had First Aid training, you’ll already have been taught how to operate an AED. However, you don’t need to have any sort of medical training to use one correctly. The British Heart Foundation has a comprehensive guide complete with video on how to use a defib – check it out today and you could make all the difference to someone’s life.