What is an AED?

Wondering what is an AED and what is all the fuss about having these devices installed in more public locations as well as in the workplace. Well, you’re not alone. In fact, because AEDs are more commonly available than ever before, more and more people are curious about them. So, what is an AED?

An AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is a lifesaving portable device which can deliver a shock and restore normal heart rhythm in a person who has suffered an out of hospital sudden cardiac arrest (OHSCA).

OHSCA is a major cause of death in all western developed countries. In Australia, there are more than 30,000 cases of OHSCA every year, and currently, less than 10% survive to leave hospital.

So, what exactly causes a sudden cardiac arrest?

OHSCA are usually due to an abnormality of a heart’s electrical rhythm – VF (ventricular fibrillation) or VT (ventricular tachycardia). When the heart is in either VF or VT, it stops pumping, blood circulation stops and the person will lose consciousness, collapse, and will not be breathing normally. The person will die unless blood flow is restored.

So how does an AED help?

Currently, the only way to restore a regular heart rhythm during cardiac arrest is to use an AED. One of the functions of an AED is to determine whether the casualty has a “shockable” or “non-shockable” rhythm.

For a short period of time, the non-pumping heart may be in this abnormal rhythm. Attaching an AED device can analyse the heart’s rhythm and if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to restore the heart back to its normal pumping rhythm.

AEDs are sophisticated, safe, easy to use, portable devices. They are designed to be used by laypersons and will guide the rescuer through the process using verbal and visual prompts. AEDs are safe for the casualty and will not allow a shock to be given unless it is required.

Time to defibrillation is a key factor that influences survival. For every minute defibrillation is delayed, there is approximately 10% reduction in survival if the person is in cardiac arrest due to VF or VT.

What about CPR?

CPR alone cannot restore a normal heart rhythm, but it can “buy time” until a defibrillator is available and used. So a defibrillator should be applied to all casualties as soon as available so that a shock can be delivered if required.

If there is no AED available, CPR should be continued until the arrival of emergency medical assistance. Chest compressions should be performed at a rate of 100-120 per minute, and if the rescuer is trained and willing to give breaths they should do so following the ratio of 30 compressions and 2 breaths.

Learning CPR and how to use an AED are essential life skills that everyone should have. You never know when you might be faced with a real-life cardiac emergency. Contact us today to book into a CPR or First Aid course or click here to learn more about our accredited first aid training courses.