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All You Need To Know About Automated External Defibrillators

Each year, approx. 20,000 Australians experience sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Out of this number, a staggering 5% of people are fortunate enough to leave hospital and return home.


The main reason? The use of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs.


So, would you feel confident using an automated external defibrillator? Keep reading to discover why an AED is crucial to saving a life…


What is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?


Think back to your last visit to your local supermarket. Do you recall seeing a sign with the letters ‘AED’? There’s a reason it’s there…


Automated external defibrillators are battery powered, life-saving medical devices that are used to diagnose and deliver an electrical shock to the heart to treat life threatening cardiac arrythmias like ventricular fibrillation.


An arrythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm in which the heart could either be beating dangerously fast or slow. 


How does an AED work?


When sudden cardiac arrest strikes early, defibrillation is a crucial step in the DRSABCD process (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR and Defibrillation). For every minute a defibrillator is not used, your chance of survival can diminish by approx. 10%… 


Listed below are the stages automated external defibrillators will go through:


  • Analysis: An AED will first analyse the heart rhythm of the patient. This is achieved with special adhesive electrode pads which stick to the patient’s bare chest. These pads allow for the heart rhythm to be analysed.
  •  Identification of Shockable Rhythm: Once the analysis has been conducted, the AED will advise whether the heart’s rhythm is shockable or not. You will be given voice prompts… Just keep listening.
  • Delivery of Electric Shock: Once the AED advises a shock, you will soon be prompted to deliver the shock. Most modern defibrillators will allow you to press the shock button.
  • Monitor: After a shock is delivered, the AED will continue to monitor the heart’s rhythm. There may still be a need to deliver another shock. Either way, the AED will prompt the operator. 

How to use an Automated External Defibrillator


Using automated external defibrillators should be straightforward enough for anyone. You should always remember the AED gives instructions via voice prompts. 


It is important to note that attending regular first aid training courses and CPR courses will give you more confidence with the use of an AED allowing for a more efficient response. 


Follow these steps bellow to successfully operate an AED.

  1. When the AED is available, turn it on and follow instructions.
  2. Remove the patients clothing to allow for a bare chest.
  3. Place AED pads as per the instructions found on the pads. Look for arrow markings.
  4. The AED will analyse the heart rhythm – be sure to stop CPR when it tells you ‘do not touch the patient’.
  5. If a shock is advised – keep clear and deliver the shock.
  6. Start CPR if the patient is not breathing, until paramedics arrive or until normal breathing returns. Continue to listen to the AED for further instructions. 

Now we have listed the steps to follow, it is vital to remember that an AED does not replace CPR. They are both extremely important and CPR should not be delayed while someone is sent to get an AED. Calling emergency services via 000 is also critical.

A close-up of a person's hand pressing a button on an AED machine

How can I locate one? 


You are now aware what an AED is, how it works and how to operate one, but do you know where you can find one? 


You will generally find an AED in any of the following settings:

  • Shopping centres (big chains such as Coles, Woolworths, Kmart, Big W) – Kept in central locations such as the entry.
  • Schools – Kept usually in a main office or staff room.
  • Gyms – Kept close to equipment in a common area.
  • Medical Centres and Hospitals – Kept usually in the reception area.
  •  Local Government Buildings such as Libraries and Council Centres – Kept in main entry or office.
  • Airports – Kept usually near check in areas and entry/exits.

If you don’t have an AED nearby, it is advised to stay with the patient and commence CPR. When you get the chance, send for someone to retrieve the nearest AED. When the AED arrives, continue CPR while the helper prepares the pads and turns the unit on.


How many shocks will it deliver?


The number of shocks that will be delivered is dependent on the patient’s heart rhythm. It is difficult to say how many shocks will be delivered. What we know for certain is that an AED will continue to analyse the heart rhythm and inform the operator if another shock is required.        


Can I use an Automated External Defibrillator on a child?


Yes, an automated defibrillator can be used on a child. 


For a child under 8 years of age, paediatric pads and a defibrillator with paediatric mode should be used. Pad placement will be advised via a diagram. 


If you are finding yourself in a situation without paediatric pads and a defibrillator without a paediatric mode, it is reasonable to use standard adult AED pads. Make sure the pads do not touch each other. If they do, proceed to using the anterior-posterior (front and back) position – one placed on the upper back between shoulder blades and the other placed on the front of the chest.


Will it shock someone if they don’t need it?


No, the AED will not deliver a shock unless its required. The AED will analyse the heart rhythm and if it doesn’t detect a shockable rhythm, it will instruct you to continue CPR. 


Can I get hurt using an AED?

While it is uncommon, care should be taken when using an AED. If voice prompts are followed correctly and you are not touching the person being shocked, it is difficult to get hurt.

Industry Wide Training’s First Aid course covers how to use automated external defibrillators, where you can expect to find one and far moreContact us today to book a session!