Damar Hamlin, a 24-year-old defensive back of the Buffalo Bills, experienced a cardiac arrest that led to his collapse on the field in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Early CPR and defibrillation with an automated external defibrillator (AED) were two things that were done in the 20 minutes before he could be transported to a hospital, and that combination can make a world of difference in a situation where timing is everything.
You don’t want cardiac arrest to happen to you, someone you love, or someone you work with. But if professional athletes can suffer from cardiac arrest, the average human can as well. Taking training classes on AED and CPR, as well as installing defibrillators where possible, can both help to save a life.
What is an AED Machine?
An AED is an emergency medical device that’s designed to deliver shocks to the chest of an unconscious, unresponsive cardiac arrest patient. In short, it’s a machine that helps someone whose heart has stopped beating by generating and then administering an electrical charge. It can be used by people that aren’t in the medical field with little training and is generally available in public places to give bystanders the ability to perform emergency medical interventions before paramedics or emergency personnel can show up to a scene. Having proper training on how to use them can increase confidence in an emergency and lead to more saved lives in communities and workplaces.
Keep in mind that an AED works differently from a manual defibrillator. Manual defibrillators are the devices you’ve likely seen on medical dramas, other TV shows, and movies. The name exists because the person using the device, who works in a hospital or in an ambulance and is a trained medical professional, can view a patient’s ECG and manually adjust the treatment. Automated external defibrillators are designed for layperson use, meaning they’re smaller, less expensive, don’t have as many features, and use smart technology to make decisions about administering shocks automatically rather than leaving that decision up to the good samaritan that took action.
How Does an AED Work?
AEDs administer electrical charges to help properly restart the heart of a cardiac arrest patient. While different AEDs might differ in their particulars, and all of them incorporate smart technology to help administer shocks at the appropriate times, there are some basic components that all AEDs have in common.
- Sticky electrode pads are attached to the patient’s chest to allow the AED to read their heart rhythm. When shocks are delivered, they travel between these pads and through to the patient’s heart.
- A battery that charges the capacitor enables the machine to deliver shocks and run self-tests and diagnostics.
- The capacitor stores and releases energy.
- A processor analyzes the patient’s heart rhythm to administer shocks properly .
How and When Do I Use an AED?
AEDs are designed to be used on people who are unresponsive and not breathing properly. The smart technology in the device will be able to evaluate a patient’s heart rhythm and, therefore, only administer shocks to patients that are experiencing cardiac arrest. This doesn’t mean that an AED should be used for every medical emergency — patients who are conscious and/or breathing properly need different treatments.
FDA-approved AEDs will have voice instructions that give responders direction on what to do so they aren’t floundering. Part of the extensive testing these machines undergo to be approved is a human factor test that determines whether a particular defibrillator is easy to use, which is crucial in a stressful situation with an untrained professional. However, especially in an emergency medical situation, these verbal instructions from the machine shouldn’t be the only source of information on how to effectively use an AED.
Each model of AED operates a little differently; reading the owner’s manual for your particular device is crucial. While AEDs don’t require formal training, thanks to the built-in instructions, proper training can help maximize the lifesaving potential of these devices. That, and taking a training class, will boost your confidence in the event of an emergency once you know exactly how to react. CPR and AED training are both available through the American Heart Association. Look for your nearest office to get more information on training sites in your area.
Here’s a quick step-by-step overview of how to use an AED:
- Retrieve the device, open the case, and turn it on.
- Expose the patient’s chest. If their chest is wet, dry them off. Remove medication patches if necessary.
- Open the AED pads, peel off the backing, and apply them to the chest. One goes on the upper right chest above the breast, and the other on the lower left chest by the armpit. Check for pacemakers or internal defibrillators before moving on.
- Make sure the wires are attached to the AED box.
- Move away and clear the patient, ensuring no one else touches or approaches them.
- Allow the AED to analyze the patient’s heart rhythm.
- If the AED message reads “check electrodes,” check to see that the pads have good contact. For example, this might happen if the patient has significant body hair, in which case the electrodes might need to be moved.
- If the AED message reads “shock,” clear the patient and press and hold the shock button until a charge is delivered.
- Resume CPR with chest compressions for two minutes.
- Repeat all steps until emergency responders arrive.
You can’t afford to not invest in AED training and AED units. Cardiac arrest can happen anywhere at any time, with more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happening annually in the United States. The ability to save a life is worth it. AEDs are much more affordable and easy to use than manual defibrillators, with most models running between $1,400 and $4,000 (and some dealers give you the option to buy multiple units in bulk). AED safety equipment should be purchased new — while used or refurbished models might seem like a great way to save money, the ability to save a life with a device you can be sure is in good condition is worth so much more than any discount.
In 2002, the Community Access to Emergency Devices Act was signed into law. This law authorizes federal grants to states and localities for the purchase and placement of AEDs in public gathering places. It also protects those acting in good faith to save lives and encourages private companies to purchase AEDs and train employees in their use.
Our goal at PK Safety has always been to ensure that everyone gets home safely at the end of a day of work or play. This means providing the tools and safety supply expertise you need to do your job and stay safe while doing it, even in the event of a medical emergency. Minutes, or even seconds, can make a difference when it comes to saving a life. If you have any workplace safety questions, you can contact one of our safety experts online or by calling 800.829.9580.