What is an AED

The automated external debrillator (AED) is a computerized medical device. It was designed to allow minimally-trained people to provide lifesaving defibrillation (electric shock to the heart) to victims of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). With a few hours of training, anyone can learn to operate an AED safely. There are many different brands of AEDs, but the same basic steps apply to all of them. The AED consists of the actual device which has only one or two control buttons and a pair of self-stick pads called electrodes that are placed on the victim’s bare chest. One is placed about halfway between the right nipple and the right collarbone and the other is placed on the left side about two inches below the left armpit.
As soon as the pads are placed, the AED begins analyzing the victim’s heart rhythm. This takes only a matter of seconds. If the AED senses that cardiac arrest is occurring, it will advise you to push a button to deliver a shock. For every minute that has passes and defibrillation is not administered the chance of survival drops.


How Does an AED Work

An AED is programmed to tell rescuers exactly what to do using voice and visual prompts. As long as you have turned on the AED, it will tell you what to do and won’t go to the next step until you have completed the last step. Through the electrode pads placed on the victim, the AED is designed to automatically analyze the electrical activity of the heart to determine if a “shockable” rhythm is present. (1)It’s important for the local EMS system to know where AEDs are located in the community. In the event of a sudden cardiac arrest emergency, the 9-1-1 dispatcher will know if an AED is on the premises and will be able to notify the EMS system as well as the responders already on the scene. Not everyone can be saved from SCA, even with defibrillation. But early defibrillation, especially when delivered within three to five minutes of a person’s collapse from SCA, does provide the best chance for survival.

(1) American Heart Association Website, February 2013