A portable defibrillator is a self-contained defibrillation device used to treat varying forms of cardiac arrhythmia, particularly ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF). It is a life-saving electronic medical apparatus that detects abnormal heart rhythms and uses an electrical shock to correct the heart and force it back into a normal rhythm.
The portable defibrillator was first developed in the 1960s by Professor Frank Pantridge in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Portable defibrillators are commonly seen in public places where medical assistance for life-threatening arrhythmia may not be close by. This includes government offices, shopping centers, restaurants, schools and many other locations where people come together. A portable defibrillator can be found in nearly all ambulances as they are the most effective treatment for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Often portable defibrillators are vivid in color, such as red or yellow, and are usually installed near the entrance of a building for ease of access.
While portable defibrillators have been deployed primarily to trained first responders and volunteers, they are becoming increasingly more popular for household use. Patients who have suffered from life-threatening heart conditions in the past are able to have access to life-saving treatment much sooner than having to wait for a portable defibrillator from an authority. Some medical professionals have expressed concern that issuing this electronic medical device for home use may increase the chance of improper defibrillation treatment. However, the benefits far out weigh the risks of not receiving defibrillation therapy in time of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). If a portable defibrillator is to be used on a child, be sure that the device is approved for pediatric use. However, for a child to need defibrillation is rare and such actions should only be executed when it is certain that the child is suffering from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
An automated external defibrillator (AED) may be referred to as a portable defibrillator. Another type of portable defibrillator is the wearable cardioverter defibrillator (WCD) which patients wear on their body. These external defibrillation units are non-invasive compared to their implantable counterpart. Many patients will be outfitted with a portable WCD before they receive an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Over 35,000 people use a portable, wearable cardioverter defibrillator. A portable defibrillator may or may not need bystander intervention depending upon its intended use. Automated external defibrillators usually allow for an untrained bystander to operate the device effectively, although it is always recommended to have a trained person operate the device. Wearable cardioverter defibrillators typically do not need external intervention, due to the intended design of the device for use (almost) exclusively by the patient.
A portable defibrillator typically weighs 5 to 10 pounds, and as new technology allows for the reduction in size of defibrillator components, this number will likely decrease with time. Portable defibrillators have saved the lives of many people by giving the public greater access to the necessary tools for delivering an electrical shock in a timely and effective manner. It is important to maintain a portable defibrillator to ensure that it is working properly. Most defibrillation units have electric pads which have an expiration date and need to be replaced every few years. Also, because portable defibrillators are battery-powered they need to be checked regularly for sufficient power and charge. For greater ease of use, many modern portable defibrillators are equipped with both voice commands and visual commands for the visually and hearing impaired, respectively.