What is an AED?
An AED, short for Automated External Defibrillator is a lightweight, and portable, medical device used to aid someone who is experiencing SCA, or sudden cardiac arrest, such as a heart attack or arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat.
These devices are designed to detect and analyze the heart’s rhythm and when necessary, to deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help the heart regain a normal rhythm following SCA.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. Given the importance of the heart’s function, mere minutes without treatment can cause death.
How Does an AED Work?
An AED has within it, a built-in computer that is able to check a person’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes attached to the victim’s skin on the chest area.
The computer within the AED then calculates whether a defibrillation is necessary. When a defibrillation is necessary, the AED will advise the user to press the “shock” button to administer the proper electrical shock.
The shock, typically will stun the heart and give it a chance to regain its normal beat.
Due to the small size and portability of AED devices, they can be kept almost anywhere they may be useful, such as gyms, office buildings, medical facilities, pools, etc.
Because they contain sophisticated, built-in computers that do the analysis and advise the user of electrical shock needed, no formal training is required to use an AED.
Why Use an AED?
Since AED devices are so easy to use, and walk the user through the entire process, these life-saving devices allow for more people, medically trained and/or non-medically trained alike, to respond to potentially life-threatening emergency situations where defibrillation could mean the difference between life and death.
Due to their portability and life-saving potential these devices can and are often used by the average person as well as the police, fire fighters, flight crews, security guards, office staff, etc.
The average SCA victim is middle-aged or elderly, although some victims can be in their 30s or 40s. More than 70 percent of SCAs occur in the home, which is why home AEDs have the potential to save the lives of countless loved ones struck by cardiac arrest.
The American Heart Association (AHA) published “Improving Survival from Sudden Cardiac Arrest: The Chain of Survival Concept,” in which it suggested that all communities adopt the principle of early defibrillation, and that all personnel who are expected, as part of their professional duties, to perform basic CPR, should also be equipped with an Automated External Defibrillator, and be trained to operate it. Since the publication of the paper, the AHA continually advocates for health professionals to have a defibrillator available either immediately or within 1 to 2 minutes.