It’s a normal day and you are walking in the mall with a friend when suddenly, a person near you clutches his chest and collapse. Just like that, you are in the middle of cardiac emergency. What should you do to help?
AED stands for automated external defibrillator. Heart.org defines AED as a portable lightweight device that delivers an electric shock to the heart. AED is a very sophisticated device and can be used to help people experiencing cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest results from the failure of the heart to pump blood effectively. The lack of blood flow to the brain causes the person to faint and loss consciousness. AED can increase the survival rate for cardiac arrest. The survival rate for cardiac arrest is less than 10%. If the victim receives defibrillation within the first minute, the survival rate is 90%. For every minute without defibrillation, survival rate decreases by 10%, thus time is critical when saving a person from cardiac arrest.
Aed.com states that many people misunderstood how an AED works. AED will produce the shock only when the heart is quivering. Normally, an electrical system controls the heart so it pumps in a rhythmic pattern. Disorganized or abnormal electrical activity in the heart can cause irregular heartbeat or the heart beats rapidly or erratically leading to cardiac arrest. When the victim’s heart behaves erratically, then the shock from an AED is useful. AED can automatically diagnose different types of heartbeat. The device knows if the heart needs to be shocked or not.
What does the shock do to the heart? When a quivering heart is detected, the AED will prepare itself for shock delivery. The shock from an AED depolarizes the heart muscle, meaning it actually stops the heart. That’s what AED does. It shocks and stops all the electrical activity in the heart. After the heart stops, amazingly, it has the ability to reset its natural pacemaker and hopefully, the problem disappears so that the heart can beat normally again. AED is a very sophisticated device and it is very important during cardiac arrest.
The following are the steps in using an automated external defibrillator.
- First, make sure the victim is having cardiac arrest. Confirm cardiac arrest if the person is unresponsive, not breathing, and no pulse.
- After assessing the emergency situation, call 911 and let them know you are planning to use an AED.
- If you are alone, start CPR right away, if you are not, have another person perform CPR while you locate and setup the AED.
- Before using AED, make sure the victim is not wet. If the victim is wet, dry them off. If the immediate area is present with water, move the victim to a dry place.
- Turn on the AED. It will give you vocal instructions on how to handle the situation.
- Prepare the chest area. Most AED comes with a razor and a scissors. Cut through the shirt exposing the chest. Remove certain items from the victim such as metal jewelries and accessories. Shave the chest if there’s a lot of hair.
- Apply the AED pads. Peel off the backing of the pads. Place one pad on the upper right side of the chest just below the collarbone. Place the other pad below the left breast and slightly along the side. If there are any implanted devices such as pacemaker or piercing, the pads should be placed one inch from them.
- Let the AED analyze the victim. Clear the victim and let everyone move back. Press the analyze button and the AED will analyze the heart rhythm of the victim. The device may tell you to shock the victim or continue doing CPR.
- Shock the victim if necessary. Once again, make sure that the victim is clear. Push the shock button on the AED. Expect the victim to move slightly with the electrical force.
- Once the shock has been delivered, continue performing CPR for 2 minutes. Then press the analyze button again to recheck the heart rhythm. Keep this up until emergency services arrive.
Using an AED may sound intimidating but it was designed so that anyone, even a layperson can use it. According to California State law, volunteer responders are not liable for the harm or death of a victim due to unsuccessful rescue attempt, so don’t be afraid to use an AED when necessary. “People who happen to be in the area during a cardiac arrest play a critical role in saving lives. Their actions can mean the difference between life and death,” says Dr. Gerald Koenig from Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.
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