Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Since so many of these medical emergencies occur outside of a hospital, the actions of a nearby bystander could prove critical in increasing the victim’s survival rate. Taking a CPR course online and becoming fully certified is one of the most effective ways for a bystander to gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take action in the event of a cardiac arrest episode.
However, there is still much more that can be done. In addition to performing the key steps of CPR, a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths, using an automated external defibrillator (AED) can help reset a victim’s heartbeat and improve their survival rate. Used together, CPR and an AED offer a cardiac arrest the best shot at surviving until medical help can arrive on the scene.
Here, we’re taking a closer look at AEDs, including what they are, how to use them, and why we need even more of these important medical devices in public places. Progress has been made in the last few decades, but more is still needed to combat the number of cardiac arrest deaths in this country. Every year, hundreds of thousands of individuals lose their lives to cardiac arrest. With more AEDs in public places, we can save lives.
WHAT IS AN AED?
Ever notice a small red box with a heart symbol hanging on the wall of a public building? If so, you’ve seen an AED. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a small medical device designed to come to the aid of those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The AED is a small, yet highly sophisticated, device that is designed for bystanders to use while waiting for professional medical assistance.
HOW DOES AN AED WORK?
When applied to a cardiac arrest victim, an AED uses sensors to try to detect any irregularities in the victim’s heartbeat. If an irregularity, also known as arrhythmia, is identified, the device emits an electrical shock to reset their heart rhythm. For anyone undergoing a cardiac arrest episode, which can include near-drowning events or serious accidents, this medical device could be the difference between life and death.
When someone undergoes cardiac arrhythmia, the heart performs unreliably, meaning it cannot successfully pump adequate blood throughout the body. The pads of an AED are designed with sensors to analyze the victim’s heart for cardiac arrhythmia. If detected, the AED has a battery that charges its capacitors. Once charged, it then delivers an electrical impulse around 200 joules. This intense shock essentially stops the heart, which then allows it to reset back to its natural rhythm.
HOW TO USE AN AED
AEDs were designed so that practically anyone (even without any formal medical training) could successfully and safely operate them. According to the American Heart Association, over 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital each year. This is why it’s an imperative to make this device easy to use so that bystanders won’t be intimidated or hesitate to take action. While it’s important to receive CPR/AED training to learn how to effectively operate this device, here are the essential steps for using an AED on a cardiac arrest victim:
1. First, assess the scene of the emergency. Make sure it’s safe before responding to the victim and have someone call 911.
2. Position the victim so that they are lying on their back.
3. Turn on the AED and follow the automated instructions.
4. Remove any clothing from their chest—it’s important that the AED pads are attached to bare and dry skin.
5. Attach the AED pads.
6. Ensure that no one (including yourself) is making contact with the victim.
7. Press the “analyze” button on the AED device (this will detect whether or not the victim is experiencing heart arrhythmia).
8. Following the analysis, the AED may or may not recommend that you deliver a shock to the victim. If so, press the “shock” button.
9. Following the shock, perform CPR on the victim. This should include a cycle of chest compressions and two rescue breaths; however, CPR can still be effective with just chest compressions.
10. Continue CPR until medical assistance arrives.
WHY WE NEED MORE AEDS IN PUBLIC PLACES
Without a doubt, a lot of progress has been made in the past few decades to make more AEDs available in public places. Many organizations and nonprofits have pushed for laws at the state and federal level to require AEDs in all public spaces. Currently, in the United States, laws concerning AED access and placement are determined at the state level. Each state has some form of a public access defibrillation (PAD) program; however, some states have much more comprehensive plans compared to others.
To save lives, it’s crucial to have as many AEDs available as possible. Compared to a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest strikes swiftly and without warning. Since so many of these medical emergencies occur outside of a hospital, a quick response is vital to improving the survival rate of the victim. To save as many lives as possible, AEDs should be placed in all public spaces, including hospitals, parks, schools, gyms, and recreational areas.
CONCLUSION – WHY WE NEED MORE AEDS IN PUBLIC PLACES
Used in tandem, CPR and an AED can make a major impact on the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim. While CPR works to keep oxygen-rich blood flowing through the body, an AED can reset an irregular heart rhythm. AEDs are designed to be easy-to-use and even come with step-by-step instructions so that bystanders will have the confidence to safely use one of these medical devices in an emergency situation.
However, it’s still extremely beneficial to receive professional training. Many CPR classes now include lessons on how to safely and effectively use an AED on a cardiac arrest victim, and now that you can become CPR/AED certified online, there’s no reason not to take the time to learn these important, life-saving skills.