Let’s take a deep dive into the role of AEDs in saving lives. In the US alone there are over 350,000 cases of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest yearly. So, you never know when you’ll be faced with a critical situation where a person collapses. In events like this, an emergency response is essential, as a lack of oxygen to the brain takes minutes to cause permanent damage and even death.
This is why having a defibrillator available to the public is very important. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) play a key factor in increasing the odds of cardiac arrest survival, and early defibrillation can as much as triple them.
Keep reading to learn more about all the benefits of this device, how it works, and why it’s crucial to treating cardiac arrest.
The Role of AEDs in Saving Lives and Why Having One Nearby Is Important
Each year we see the growing prevalence of heart disease and an increasing number of cardiovascular deaths. This is a worldwide issue and the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is from 20 to 140 per 100,000 people.
In the United States specifically, more than 100 in 100,000 individuals will suffer from cardiac arrest outside of a medical facility, usually in their homes or residential areas. According to statistics, only around 10% of these will survive, as nearly 90% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases are fatal.
When a person is going into cardiac arrest, you should always make sure to call the emergency medical services first. However, following the call, it can take an ambulance about 7 to 10 minutes to arrive at the scene.
As we mentioned, swift action is crucial to a person’s survival in these situations. If the brain is starved of oxygen for 4 minutes or longer, you’re looking at permanent brain damage or potential death. So, emergency services won’t always make it in time to save a person’s life.
This is why if you’re in a position to administer first aid and start resuscitation, you should do so as soon as possible, even before medical personnel arrives. Ideally, you should perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an AED a person to increase their chances of surviving.
Considering the fact that a sudden cardiac arrest can happen at any time, it’s essential to have AEDs placed in highly crowded public places such as shopping malls, airports, and sports stadiums. This will allow any friend or stranger to perform timely resuscitation on a potential victim. Beyond this, many people, especially those at high risk of cardiac arrest, would benefit from keeping AEDs in their homes.
How Do AEDs Work?
To understand the role of AEDs in saving lives you must learn how it works. When someone experiences cardiac arrest, the electrical impulses that trigger muscle contractions and tell the heart to pump blood are disturbed and irregular. This means the rhythm is thrown off and there is no longer normal circulation of blood throughout the body.
AEDs are compact, battery-operated devices that are used to restore normal heart function in cases of cardiac arrest. They do this by sending an electric shock to the heart that temporarily stops the muscle and allows it to “restart”.
An AED has certain features that make it easy for anyone to use it. The device delivers voice instructions, charges itself, and can decide whether an electric shock is truly needed. An AED will review a person’s heart rhythm and only deliver a current if it senses heart rhythm abnormalities.
How to Use AEDs
Defibrillators are usually used by first responders, medical professionals, and those trained in CPR and first aid. However, AEDs are designed in such a way that they can also easily be operated by any bystander.
Before using the device on anyone suffering from a cardiac arrest you should always make a call to emergency medical services. While you’re waiting for responders to arrive, you can start helping the victim by going through the following steps:
- Remove the machine from the case and turn it on. All AEDs in the U.S. have voice guides that lead you through the steps, and some even have a visual display.
- Remove any clothing that is in the way and surrounding the victim’s chest.
- Ensure that the chest is dry, and if not, you may need to wipe it.
- Attach the pads in the correct location, placing one pad on the upper right side of the chest (below the shoulder) and the other on the lower left side (below the nipple). The instructions also contain pictures that tell you the exact position the pads should be placed in.
- Ensure no one is touching the collapsed person.
- Let the AED analyze the heart’s rhythm.
- Deliver a shock if needed. After this, start performing CPR for two minutes before checking for a steady heart rhythm.
Even though AEDs are designed so that anyone can effectively use them, you can also attend CPR and first aid training classes that will teach you how to use the device. This may help you gain more confidence in your abilities and better help someone if needed.
When to Use an AED
To understand the role of AEDs in saving lives you must learn when to use one. AED is only used if a person is suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest. A typical sign that someone is having a cardiac arrest is a loss of consciousness, lack of a pulse, and no breathing.
Do not use the AED on children under the age of 1 and on victims that have a pacemaker placed on their chest.
You should not use the defibrillator if the victim is lying in water or if you are in a moving vehicle because it won’t be able to pick up the proper signals.
You also should not use automated external defibrillators on people who are having a heart attack! When a person is having a heart attack, it means that one of the arteries is blocked and the heart muscle begins to die, while a cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood.
What Happens to a Person That Is Resuscitated With AED
After defibrillation, other measures such as intubation, chest compressions, and medical motorization are commonly necessary.
CPR should be performed on the victim or patient for 2 minutes after using an AED. Following this, the first responder or person providing aid will check for a pulse the determine whether the heart rhythm is back to normal.
If defibrillation didn’t work right away, and the patient needed a second shock, then medical responders will also administer appropriate medication to stabilize the heart rhythm. If blood flow is getting back to normal and the person remains unresponsive, the medical team may need to bring the body temperature down to protect the brain.
You should keep in mind that even once a person is in stable condition and even regains consciousness, the road is still not over. Recovery can last for months or even years. Cardiac arrest survivors are advised not to take on heavy activity, and many have some severe damage to their bodies that prevent them from doing even regular tasks.
Common consequences of cardiac arrest include seizures, trouble walking, and a need for physical and speech therapy. You should also know that improper CPR compressions may lead to broken ribs.
Benefits of Having an AED and The Role of AEDs in Saving Lives
The benefits of purchasing an AED machine are many, including:
- Saving precious time – AEDs can be used to administer help before emergency medical services arrive. The minutes that go by are very precious, not only for survival but also for reducing the risk of any further damage.
- Practical – the AED machine is lightweight, easily portable, battery operated, and not hard to spot in need of an emergency response.
- Safe – the modern AEDs are designed to determine all on their own if a person needs a defibrillation shock or not, meaning that the machine shouldn’t activate if someone is having a heart attack.
- Lifesaving – Up to 90% of people experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest die before reaching the hospital in the U.S. The only way to restart the heart rhythm is through an electric shock that an AED kit can provide in seconds.
Conclusion: The Role of AEDs in Saving Lives
AEDs are a great tool to help someone in an emergency and notably improve their chances of cardiac arrest survival. Designed to be practical and easy to use by anyone who wants to help, AED is a lifesaver for many experiencing cardiac arrest outside a hospital.
The use of publicly-available AEDs increases the chances of survival and leads to better outcomes. Victims who received a shock administered by a bystander had 2.62 times higher survival odds.
The only problem that occurs is the lack of knowledge. Many people don’t know that in situations like these, they are supposed to look for a nearby AED, or they don’t have the slightest idea of where to start looking. Stay informed and aware of your surroundings, because you never know when someone might need your help. Now you should have a better understanding of the role of AEDs in saving lives.