Three Keys to Understanding AEDs

How does an AED work?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and in the workplace today, but with basic training, you can be ready in the event that someone collapses from Sudden Cardiac Arrest near you.

What are the signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
If someone goes into SCA, you may see him or her suddenly collapse and pass out or you may find the person unconscious and unable to respond when you call or shake him or her. The person may not be breathing, or he or she may have an abnormal breathing pattern. The person’s skin may become dark or blue from lack of oxygen. Also, the person may not move, a pulse may not be detected, or his or her movements may resemble a seizure. A shock from a defibrillator is the best chance the victim has of surviving Cardiac Arrest.

How does an AED work?
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are lightweight, battery-operated, portable devices that are easy to use by anyone. Sticky pads with sensors, called “electrodes” are attached to the chest of the person who is in sudden cardiac arrest . The electrodes send information regarding the person’s heart rhythm to a computer in the AED. The computer analyzes the heart rhythm to find out whether an electric shock is needed. If a shock is needed, the AED uses voice prompts to tell you when to give the shock, and the electrodes deliver it. If a shock is not needed, the AED will not shock the victim and will coach the rescuer to continue CPR until EMS arrive.

When do I use an AED?
If a person is unconscious and not breathing, attach the AED. Using an automated external defibrillator (AED) on a person who is having sudden cardiac arrest can save the person’s life. The most common cause of SCA is an arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation (v-fib). In v-fib, the ventricles (the heart’s lower chambers) quiver very rapidly and irregularly. In people who experience this dangerous arrhythmia, an electric shock from an AED can restore the heart’s normal rhythm if done within minutes.