An AED, or automated external defibrillator, is a cardiac machine used for stabilizing cardiac arrest or irregular heart rhythms. AED machines have been responsible for saving many lives because they help prevent the irreversible brain damage that can occur very quickly during cardiac arrest. AED machines have become standard medical equipment in ambulances, emergency rooms, hospitals, and cardiology practices, and are increasingly available in general medical practices.
Even places that experience an ongoing high volume of people—such as shopping malls, airports, and schools—are now purchasing AED machines, since the machine must be used within minutes of the onset of cardiac arrest in order to be effective. The chances of someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest are greater in public, everyday life than they are during a routine doctor’s visit, since cardiac arrest is almost always unexpected. For patients at risk for cardiac arrest, an AED machine can be purchased for home use, as long as there is another person in the home who can administer the machine.
Cardiac arrest occurs when a patient’s heart suddenly stops beating. Because blood is no longer being pumped throughout the body, damage to the brain and other vital organs can occur as a result of oxygen deprivation. Since death can result in just minutes, the use of an AED machine to restart the patient’s heart can save their life.
How an AED Machine Works
AED machines are fairly easy to use, especially since those licensed for use in the United States come with a built-in voice prompter that tells the operator when to deliver shocks to the heart. AED machines are computers that are battery operated, lightweight, and portable. They are equipped with adhesive electrodes, or AED pads
, that attach to the chest of a person experiencing cardiac arrest.
The heart produces electrical signals that move from the top to the bottom of the heart and determine the rate and rhythm of each heartbeat, telling the heart when to contract and pump blood. During cardiac arrest, the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and causes either heart failure or arrhythmias (irregular heart beats) which can lead to heart failure.
The electrodes read the patient’s heart rhythms and send information back to the computer, which analyzes the data and uses it to determine whether or not an electronic shock to the heart is necessary. After a shock is administered, the AED machine re-evaluates the heart’s rhythm and determines whether or not a subsequent shock is necessary. When needed, the AED machine prompts the operator to deliver an electronic shock to the patient.
The shocks can help normal heart rhythm and function return to a patient experiencing arrhythmias or cardiac arrest. Shocks from the AED machine must be administered within minutes of the time a patient begins experiencing cardiac arrest. The sooner a shock is administered, the better the chances of recovery and survival are. Every 60 seconds of cardiac arrest equals a ten percent decrease in the chances of the patient’s survival.
Basic Instructions for AED Machine Use
Even if you’ve never seen or used an AED machine before, general knowledge of its functions can help save a life. When used alone or in combination with CPR, an AED machine can help restore heart rhythm and buy a cardiac arrest patient the extra time needed for paramedics to arrive in an emergency situation.
If you find a person unconscious, or see a person suddenly collapse and lose consciousness, they may have gone into cardiac arrest. Lack of a pulse or an irregular pulse are major signs that the person has gone into cardiac arrest.
After calling 911, prepare to use an AED machine if available. If no machine is available, administer CPR until emergency medical help arrives. If preparing to use the AED machine, move the person away from any standing water. Remove their shirt, bra, and any metal jewelry. The AED machine delivers electric shocks, and both water and metal conduct electricity.
Once you turn on the AED machine, step-by-step instructions will appear on it’s screen and it will also begin giving you voice prompts. You’ll need to apply the electrodes to the right places on the person’s chest, following the directions on the machine. Most AED machines come with two electrodes: one goes on the right center of the person’s chest just above the nipple, and the other goes on the left side just below the nipple.
After pressing the AED machine’s “analyze” button, the machine will read the patient’s heart and give you a voice prompt to administer a shock using the “shock” button, if one is necessary. Combine the electric shocks prompted by the machine with CPR until medical help arrives.