Proper Use of an Automated External Defibrillator

They occur suddenly. They are the leading cause of hospitalization and the second leading cause of death in Canada. They also attack all racial and ethnic groups with equal prejudice. So, who are these killers? Heart attacks. At home, at work or play, at religious gatherings, in stores and on-the-road, heart attacks create real life emergencies. But we do have hope. Thanks to an Irish gentleman named Frank Pantridge, who in 1957 invented the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), we have a super tool, often close at-hand, should a heart attack strike someone near us. Knowing where the nearest AED is located and how to use it properly is a life skill that everyone should become familiar with. Jason Blair, Owner, Paul Davis Restoration, Sud Ouest/Rive Sud, QC is a believer in AED and makes a point of encouraging all his commercial customers to make AED training a regular exercise at their company. This article will explain five important steps to take when a heart emergency strikes. 

Step #1. When we observe a potential cardiac arrest or unconscious person, it is critical that someone get emergency medical care to the victim. If alone, quickly call 911 for emergency medical assistance. Tell the dispatcher where the victim is located. Stay on the line and answer all the dispatcher's questions until told to do otherwise. 

Step #2. Next locate a nearby Automated External Defibrillator. When the AED is at the patient’s side, depress the power button to turn it on and the unit will automatically initiate the sequence of voice prompts and graphic illuminations to follow.

Step #3. Remove all clothing from the patient's chest; anything containing metal should be removed from the area, including underwire bras.

Step #4. Correctly place defib pads on the bare chest. Listen to AED instructions. AED analyzes heart rhythm. The sequence continues until the AED is turned off or the electrodes are disconnected from the victim for an extended period. Continue to follow the AED voice-guided prompts. As soon as electrodes are attached to the victim and impedance of the connection is verified, the unit stops cycling through the above-mentioned voice and graphic illumination sequence and automatically begins analysis of the ECG (same as EKG) rhythm. Following the results of this ECG analysis, voice prompts tell the rescuer whether a shockable or non-shockable rhythm has been detected.

Step #5. If a shockable ECG rhythm is present, the graphics illuminate, and voice prompts guide the rescuer through the defibrillation sequence. When no shock is advised, the AED issues the audio prompts, NO SHOCK ADVISED and START CPR, and illuminates the CPR-related graphics. A period of 2 minutes (depending upon device configuration) is then allowed for rescuers to perform CPR. Following this “CPR period”, the AED automatically reinitiates a new ECG rhythm analysis. Continue to follow the AED prompts until relieved by someone with a higher level of training and certification. 

“Knowing the location(s) of an AED is critical,” notes Blair. “Our people respond to stressful situations in homes, commercial businesses and public places day-in and day-out. When they spot an AED placement, they take notice of it. That simple step can make a lifesaving difference when an AED is needed.”