AEDs are life-saving medical devices that have been designed for use by non-medical individuals. Essentially, they are machines that you – or anyone – can use in an emergency where a cardiac arrest is suspected.
A cardiac arrest is where the heart has stopped beating normally, due to abnormal or absent electrical activity. It results in a lack of oxygen and prevents blood from being effectively pumped around the body.
It is fatal and can be irreversible in minutes, as a lack of blood and oxygen causes tissue death and brain damage.
A cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, but lots of people get them confused. Read this blog to understand more about the differences between heart attacks and cardiac arrests and how to spot them.
In the UK, over 30,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of hospitals (72% in the home and 15% in the workplace) and half of these are witnessed by a bystander. Although CPR is attempted in 70% of cases, a public access defibrillator is reported as being used in fewer than 10% of cases.
CPR ensures blood and oxygen continue to flow around the body, delaying irreversible tissue death and brain damage, and helping to maintain a “shockable” rhythm for when emergency services arrive. However, in most cases, only defibrillation can restore the heart to normal and ensure survival. For every minute without defibrillation, the chances of survival drop by around 7-10%.
In January 2020, the London Ambulance Service published figures showing that out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates were 58.1% when a bystander used an AED and delivered at least one shock. This is over five times higher than survival rates without defibrillation.
AEDs are designed to detect fatal cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal electrical activity in the heart) and analyse a casualty’s heart rhythm. An AED will only issue a shock to someone who is both in cardiac arrest and who has a “shockable” heart rhythm that will respond to defibrillation. For a casualty who is in cardiac arrest with a shockable heart rhythm, the casualty is clinically dead and has no chance of survival without help.
It is not possible for the AED to issue a shock to someone who does not need it or wouldn’t benefit from it. Therefore, it is impossible for an AED to do harm to a casualty in any circumstances, making them very safe.
If a shock is required, the AED will command bystanders to avoid contact with the casualty when necessary. Should a casualty be in cardiac arrest with a non-shockable heart rhythm, the AED will direct rescuers to continue with CPR.
Not only this, all AEDs provide voice prompts throughout to instruct rescuers in how to use them.
AEDs are safe for everyone to use, whether they are first aid trained or not. Once you switch an AED on, it will provide voice prompts instructing you through the process of preparing the casualty for defibrillation, applying the electrode pads and delivering the defibrillation shock.
The most important thing to remember is to stay calm in the situation. Being with an unresponsive casualty can be terrifying but the first few minutes are critical. It’s important to remember that the casualty’s chances of survival decrease hugely if you don’t attempt to help.
There are two types of AED: semi-automatic AEDs and fully automatic AEDs. Both these types of AED will provide voice prompts to the responder and will only allow a shock to be delivered if one is required.
However, semi-automatic models will inform the user if the casualty requires defibrillation and, if so, will instruct the user to press a “shock” button. Whereas fully automatic models do not require the user to press any buttons to deliver a shock; if the AED determines that a shock is required, it will deliver the shock itself.
All defibrillators are safe to be used by anyone, as they will only ever administer a shock if one is required. For this reason, a fully automatic AED can be more advantageous in environments where a responder may feel hesitant, as any delay in pressing the shock button reduces the patient's survival chances.
Having a defibrillator will mean that you are more likely to be able to save the life of someone experiencing a cardiac arrest. There are no negatives to having an AED.
As mentioned above, AEDs will only shock people with “shockable” hearth rhythms. If someone’s heart rhythm is shockable, they will not survive without the quick use of a defibrillator, so providing and using one equates to choosing to give that person a chance of survival.
Read this blog if you are considering whether to get an AED for your workplace.
Below are some of our best-selling AED’s or you can take a look at our full range here: