Sometimes, the only method to save someone in cardiac arrest is to use a defibrillator to assist in the heart restart.
In early 2020, London Ambulance Services discovered that 10.8% of patients survive cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, more than doubling the figure from a decade before. This is partly due to the rise in public access to automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), and people stepping in to help save lives.
AEDs are meant to be simple and quick to operate, allowing any community member to assist before medical personnel arrives. However, many are afraid to use an AED owing to a lack of training and knowledge.
Yet, the greater the number of individuals who utilize defibrillators outside of a hospital, the greater the likelihood of survival from cardiac arrest. So, read on as we discuss what a defibrillator is and answer other crucial questions regarding the life-saving device.
What Happens During Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that ensues when the heart suddenly stops beating, meaning it can no longer pump blood to the rest of the body. It is a life-threatening state that mandates rapid medical attention. The symptoms of cardiac arrest comprise loss of consciousness, sudden collapse, lack of a pulse, and no respiration.
It is significant to note that cardiac arrest differs from a heart attack. A heart attack happens when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, causing damage to the organ. Meanwhile, cardiac arrest is the result of a problem with the heart’s electrical system.
The most common causes of cardiac arrest include arrhythmia, which means an irregular heart rhythm, such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. These kinds of issues cause the heart to beat excessively fast, slow, or simply irregularly, preventing it from pumping blood effectively.
There are a few notable risk factors for cardiac arrest like genetic arrhythmias, congenital heart defects, prior heart attacks, substance abuse, and certain medical conditions. However, anyone can suffer from cardiac arrest, even if they have no knowledge of an underlying heart condition or issue.
During cardiac arrest, there is a shortage of blood outpour to the brain and body which can lead to serious damage or even death. Luckily, prompt treatment that includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation can boost the likelihood of survival.
How to Handle an Emergency: CPR or AED?
CPR is a technique that involves chest compressions and rescue breaths to help circulate oxygen-rich blood to the brain and body. Meanwhile, defibrillation is a process that uses electric shocks to revitalize the normal pulse of the heart.
When a cardiac arrest occurs, there may not be a defibrillator immediately available. In these cases, the person administering help should start with CPR to keep blood flowing to vital organs. Once an AED is accessible, it can be used to restore the heart’s rhythm.
If a person is suspected of suffering cardiac arrest, it is essential to call 911 immediately. The faster the individual obtains treatment, the more promising their chances of survival. In addition to emergency treatment, long-term management of underlying conditions, such as heart disease, can help prevent future cardiac arrests.
What Is a Defibrillator?
A defibrillator, also known as an automated external defibrillator or AED, is a medical apparatus that delivers an electric shock to the heart in order to restore a normal heart rhythm. Defibrillators are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition in which the heart abruptly stops beating.
You can find defibrillators in public spots such as airports, shopping centers, and sports venues, as well as in ambulances, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. They are designed to be easy to use and accessible to laypeople, with clear instructions and voice prompts to guide users.
Defibrillation is a vital step in treating SCA, as it can revitalize the heart and help it return to a normal rhythm, possibly saving a person’s life. However, it’s important to note that defibrillation alone is not enough to treat SCA fully and that additional medical care, such as CPR and advanced life support, is also necessary.
How Do AEDs Work?
The main part of a defibrillator is the capacitor. This component stores electrical energy and can then release it. An AED will diagnose the patient’s heart rhythm and specify if a shock is indeed needed.
When a shock is required, the AED delivers an electrical current to the heart through electrodes placed on the chest. This can be supplied through shock paddles or adhesive pads, depending on the device. Most AEDs give a 120-200 joules zap, with each shock traveling in the opposite way between the pads.
AEDs are designed to be manageable, even for individuals without medical experience. They typically have clear, step-by-step instructions that direct the user through the process.
You position the AED pads on the patient’s chest, one on the right side and the other on the left side of the rib cage. Once the pads are in place, the AED will deliver the shock. You may carry out the entire procedure in a couple of seconds.
In summary, defibrillators are lifesaving devices that you can use to restore normal heart rhythm in individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. They are easy to operate, even for people with no medical training, and can be used in conjunction with CPR and advanced medical care.
It’s important to note that you should only use AEDs for SCA, and one should not use them for other conditions. Additionally, before you start administering any technique, it’s crucial to call emergency services and follow their instructions.
How to Use a Defibrillator
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to use a defibrillator, here are step-by-step instructions on how to approach the process:
- First, ensure that the area around the person in cardiac arrest is safe and call 911.
- Turn on the device and follow the prompts.
- Remove the person’s shirt and wipe their chest dry to ensure proper electrode pad placement.
- Peel the electrode pads from their packaging and attach them to the person’s chest, one on the right side of the breastbone and one on the left side of the rib cage.
- Press the button to analyze the person’s heart rhythm.
- If the defibrillator advises a shock is required, press the shock control.
- Perform CPR for 2 minutes before re-analyzing the person’s heart rhythm.
- Repeat steps 6 and 7, if necessary, until emergency medical services arrive at the location.
It’s important to note that defibrillators are designed for use by laypeople, so it shouldn’t be difficult to follow instructions and operate the device. Always remember that the sooner a defibrillator is used and CPR is started, the greater the chance of survival for the person in cardiac arrest.
Where Can I Find a Defibrillator?
In a cardiac emergency, every second carries immense weight and can mean the difference between life and death. A defibrillator is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment in saving a person’s life.
These devices are used to revitalize a normal heart rhythm by administering an electric shock to the heart. But in a time of crisis, it can be challenging to know where to find a defibrillator. Here are some key places to look:
- Hospitals and medical facilities are the most obvious places to find defibrillators.
- Public buildings: Many public buildings, such as airports, train stations, and government buildings, are required to have defibrillators on site.
- Public spaces: Some parks, beaches, and other public spaces have defibrillators.
- Businesses: Many companies, especially those in the medical field, have defibrillators in case of an emergency.
- Emergency responders: Paramedics and firefighters always carry defibrillators.
In case of an emergency, calling 911 is the first step. However, knowing where to find a defibrillator can help save a life in those critical moments before emergency responders arrive.
There are several types of defibrillators, and each type operates differently. But, they all have the same purpose of restoring the patient’s heartbeat. There is a defibrillation instrument for everyone, whether they are for ambulance crews, experienced physicians, or regular folks, to help save someone’s life.
For laypeople, AEDs are very handy and cost-effective. Knowing where to locate on or having one in your house might save someone’s life in the event of a cardiac emergency until EMS arrives.
The more we all gain knowledge and understanding about defibrillators, the better our chances of improving SCA survival rates. After all, a society that is ready and capable of using a defibrillator in an accident is a safer, more resilient place.