Is A Defibrillator Complicated To Use?

A woman applying electrode pads to a man who has fallen victim to sudden cardiac arrest

The 6 Step Checklist For Using An AED


Is An Automated External Defibrillator Complicated to Use?

AEDs (automated external defibrillators) are complex devices that require a lot of technology to work. It’s not surprising, then, that a common misconception is that AEDs are complicated medical devices which only medical professionals can use. But in reality, these devices are designed to be easy and intuitive to use, meaning anyone can use them safely

The device itself will guide you through each step of the process and give you instructions on what to do next. Still unsure? Take a look at this 6 step checklist for using an AED to learn more:


1. Call For Help

If you see someone collapse, don't hesitate to call 911 or ask a bystander to do so.


2. Check For A Pulse And Breathing

To see if the victim is breathing normally, turn the victim's head to the side and feel for air going in and out of their nose. You can check for a pulse in the neck, wrist or even the groin area. If the victim is completely unresponsive, find an AED or direct a bystander to do so. If you’re trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) you should begin right away. However, once the AED arrives you should use the device as soon as possible.


3. Remove Their Shirt And Ensure Their Chest Is Dry

If it’s not dry, then wipe it down with a towel or cloth. Dry skin helps conduct electricity better than wet skin. The person should be lying flat on a hard surface, like a floor or table. Make sure that they avoid soft surfaces like couches or beds as they can move while you are trying to deliver treatment.


4. Attach The AED Pads To The Person’s Chest

Apply the electrode pads directly to the patient’s chest and ensure it adheres firmly by pressing down on it with both hands. – this should be enough for most devices to detect a heart rhythm and start treatment if necessary.


5. The AED Will Tell You If Administering A Shock Is Needed

Press the shock button when instructed to do so by the AED, and deliver chest compressions while waiting for another shock instruction from the device if needed. The device will only advise you to use a shock if it detects an abnormal heart rhythm.


6. Continue Listening To AED Voice Prompts Until Help Arrives

The AED voice prompts are very easy to follow and understand. They will tell you exactly what you should do at each step. You should continue to follow the prompts, and continue other life saving efforts such as CPR if you are trained to do so, until professional medical help arrives and can take over for you.


AEDs are simple to use. They have a voice-guided user interface and perform internal tests to determine whether or not the device needs to be used. The only thing that is complicated about using an AED is getting it to the patient as fast as possible.

Time of AED use is critical in increasing a person's chances of survival after a cardiac arrest. In fact, studies have shown that the longer a person goes without having an AED administered the lower their chance of survival becomes.

When someone has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, they are unconscious and not breathing normally. Bystanders who witness this event are encouraged to take action immediately by calling 911, checking for a pulse and then performing CPR if trained, and using an AED if necessary until paramedics arrive on scene. 


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