What is a Defibrillator and How Does It Work?

Zack had just finished his last mile for the day when he started feeling a little lightheaded. Collapsing onto the ground, his neighbors saw and called 911 right away.

On the way to the hospital, Zack went into cardiac arrest. In a blur of movement, the EMTs were able to save his life. However, Zack wouldn’t have made it through the day if the EMTs didn’t have a working defibrillator.

What is a defibrillator? Read on to find out!

What Is a Defibrillator?

First things first, what is a defibrillator, exactly? A defibrillator is a device used to try and restart or reset the heart. They’re helpful when someone has gone into cardiac arrest, meaning their heart has stopped beating correctly.

When to Use a Heart Defibrillator

When people have cardiac arrests, they will go through VF (ventricular fibrillation) and eventually enter into asystole (flatline). The heart stops dead in its tracks, which is why it’s so important to have a heart defibrillator on hand at all times.  You can check out here for the best locations to store one.

When Not to Use a Defibrillator

There are a few rare situations where you should avoid using a defibrillator. Since the machine uses electricity, it’d be unsafe to operate it in water. If someone is in cardiac arrest and they’re lying in a body of water, the defibrillator would do more harm than good.

Next, children under the age of 12 months are also not candidates for a defibrillator. You can only use a defibrillator on a baby if you have special training.

Finally, there are situations, for adults, where the defibrillator isn’t going to do any good. Unfortunately, when there isn’t a pulse or heartbeat, the machine won’t help.

What Does a Defibrillator Do?

Did you know defibrillators are also referred to as AEDs? The acronym stands for automatic external defibrillators. AEDs work by sending an electric shock through the body, which is delivered to the heart muscle. It may restart a person’s heart or give it a jolt that can help them regain consciousness and breathing.

Biphasic Cardiac Defibrillator

AEDs use a technology called biphasic defibrillation. Biphasic means the defibrillator uses 2 different types of current to try and restore a normal heartbeat.

If too high of a voltage is used, it can cause damage, whereas lower voltages can fail at their purpose. Thankfully, AEDs have undergone thorough testing to deliver the perfect voltage to restart hearts without being too powerful.

Do You Need Training?

Training about how it works and when it should be used is helpful to operate an AED safely. However, if an emergency happens and you’re the only one who can help, you can use an AED without training. That’s right, even if you never touched an AED before, you can use one successfully the first time.

Spotting an Emergency

Would you know a medical emergency if you saw one? Memorizing the signs of a heart attack or knowing when someone’s choking are the first steps in helping.

Having a clear understanding of what’s happening is crucial in an emergency. As soon as you realize someone needs help, whether, with CPR or using an AED, they can get the assistance they need.

Steps to Using an AED

Each machine operates similarly. However, reading the instructions helps ensure that you’ll be doing everything correctly to administer the best care.

Begin by turning the machine on. Next, peel off the transparent film from the body of the unit. If there are instructions, follow them carefully.

You can also find out how to operate the AED online by looking at pictures. Next, make sure that everyone is standing away from the patient. They need to be far away enough, so they don’t get zapped with electricity.

Now you can stand in front of the person lying on their back. Make sure you’re ready to make room for anyone else who may be arriving to help, like 911 responders or EMTs, if they were called for assistance. Next, put one pad over their upper right chest, then place another pad directly below it.

The pad should be directly over the left side of their heart (make sure you line up the arrows on the pad, which will show you where to place it). If there is a monitor attached, plug it into the wall.

This shows that all pads are in the correct position and it’s ready for use. If you’re still unsure about how to use one or someone else arrives who wants to help – invite them over and let them know what you’ve already done.

Press the Analyze Button

Now, press the ‘analyze’ button on the monitor (some higher-end defibrillators may do this automatically). The first time you turn on an AED, it always does an analysis first so that once you open up the machine for first responders or others who want to help, it’s already done the most challenging task.

If this is a new AED and you turned it on or plugged in the pads, there should be some safety pins attached to the corner of each pad. Be sure to remove these safety pins before using them!

When the machine is ready for use (it will say “stand clear”), press the button on top that says ‘shock.’ The device will also perform an analysis. If there isn’t any heartbeat or pulse, you won’t get the all-clear to shock.

Get Familiar With a Cardiac Defibrillator

What is a defibrillator (AED)? It’s a life-saving device! After reading this article, do you feel more confident about your AED knowledge?

If you’re still unsure, get sure today. You never know whose life you might wind up saving. Find out where the AED is at your workplace or places you frequent. Then ask to look at the machine.

While you’re looking at the AED, carefully read all of the device’s instructions. Sometimes seeing what you should do while you’re reading about it can be a big help! For more tips, explore the rest of our site.