An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a portable defibrillation device that delivers an electrical charge to a patient suffering from a deadly cardiac arrhythmia. These devices have revolutionized public safety by being placed in areas where crowds of people typically gather.
Most ambulances are equipped with an AED defibrillator for use by a trained EMT. A defibrillator is the most effective form for treating ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. Modern automated external defibrillators feature voice and visual commands that help speed up the defibrillation process and offer assistance for the operator. An automated external defibrillator uses battery power (typically running off of consumer batteries).
Using precise sensing technology the AED defibrillator will begin to analyze a person’s heart rhythm for ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation once the electrodes have been placed on the person’s bare chest. When AED’s are finished analyzing the person, they will conclude whether an electrical shock is necessary. If defibrillation is needed the AED will instruct bystanders to stand back and prompt the operator to deliver the shock. It is important that no bystanders, or the operator, is touching the victim as this can cause unnecessary injury from an automatic electronic defibrillator. External defibrillators, like the automated external defibrillator, are inherently different than defibrillator implants due to the fact that they do not require surgical placement. However, they are similar in their capabilities of automatically detecting arrhythmia and analyzing a patient’s cardiac condition.
In addition to arrhythmia sensing technology, the automated external defibrillator (AED) can be equipped with memory storage capacities that record useful information for doctors and health professionals post-defibrillation. Some of this information includes an electrocardiogram, voice recording, and chest compression effectiveness (after defibrillation). Thankfully, automatic external defibrillators have allowed for less electrical energy to be needed for a successful defibrillation. Among the different electronic waveforms utilized by defibrillator units, nearly all of the first generation AED’s used monophasic properties for defibrillation. Unfortunately, this led to more injury and tissue burning for the patient due to nearly 200 extra joules of energy that the monophasic automated external defibrillator uses. Most AED’s on the market today utilize biphasic waveforms for a successful defibrillation, which uses between 100 and 300 joules. This waveform has proven to be more effective and offer less recovery times for patients in clinical trials.
Automated external defibrillators have evolved to the point where they are easy to use even for an untrained person. This has allowed for increased chances of survival among Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) victims. Of course, defibrillators are not a toy and should only be used when necessary. In the United States, many states following good Samaritan laws acknowledge that any harm caused by a helping volunteer due to the improper use of an AED cannot be used against the person as they were acting in “good faith”. Fortunately, the automated external defibrillator is extremely safe to use and rarely creates any type of liability for the operator. No one should be afraid of operating an AED defibrillator if the time calls for one as they can save a life. Finding an automated external defibrillator in time for saving someone’s life can be difficult, if you own a smart phone like the iPhone you may be able to search for an AED defibrillator closest to you using an AED finding application.