Sudden cardiac arrest is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate action. The best treatment is to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand at all times. While it's difficult to remember when time is running out, there are some important steps to take in order to save a person who's under cardiac arrest. If you’re ever caught wondering “what are the 7 steps of using an AED?”, you can refresh your memory with the lifesaving guidelines listed below:
1. Check For Responsiveness In Victim
First, assess the victim's level of responsiveness. You can do this by gently shaking the victim and speaking to them or by asking them to speak your name or make a sound. If they're unresponsive (not conscious, not breathing, and pulseless) you need to take action as soon as possible.
2. Call Your Local Emergency Number And Retrieve AED
After recognizing the emergency, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number, if possible have someone else retrieve the AED while you stay with the victim. When the device is available, you may place the electrode pads accordingly and turn the device “on” which will allow the AED to begin assessing the victim’s heart rhythm.
Please note: An AED will not deliver a shock unless it determines that it is absolutely necessary, so you do not have to worry about accidentally shocking the victim.
3. Check Victim’s Breathing
Check if the victim is breathing by putting your ear close to the victim's mouth and nose. If the person is not breathing or breathing is irregular, begin CPR by providing 2 slow breaths to the victim.
4. Check Victim’s Pulse
Check for a pulse by placing two fingers (not thumbs) on the side of the person's throat or neck, below their jawline. It is important to remember that an automated external defibrillator should only be used when a victim has no pulse.
If you cannot find the pulse you can turn on the AED. If there is a second rescuer, they should continue CPR while you prepare the AED for use.
5. Attach AED Electrode Pads
Attach the AED electrode pads to the victim's chest. The first pad should be placed on the upper right chest, and the second pad should be placed on the lower left chest. Thoroughly dry the areas where the pads will be placed; wet skin will decrease the effectiveness of this device.
6. Analyze Victim’s Heart Rhythm
Analyze the heart rhythm (follow your AED's prompts). Make sure no one is the victim when you perform an analysis. If the AED recommends that you give a shock, proceed to step 7. If not, check for a pulse again and continue CPR for one minute before analyzing again. Repeat this sequence every minute until advanced help arrives.
7. Administer The AED Shock Accordingly
Depending on the model, an AED will either instruct the rescuer to administer a shock or, in the case of a fully automatic AED, the device will administer the shock accordingly. An AED will only provide a shock if it determines that the victim is indeed in cardiac arrest. To ensure the safety of onlookers, make sure no one is touching the victim and call out, "stand clear!", it is important that no one is touching the victim at the time of the shock.
If you are using a semi-automatic AED, after delivering the first shock, you should analyze the victim. If the AED advises that another shock is needed, deliver a second shock. If the AED still indicates that a shock is required, administer it after confirming that a pulse has not resumed and there are no signs of breathing.
Continue to deliver three shocks within one minute, with CPR and one-minute pauses between each series of shocks. Once all three shocks have been delivered without restoring a pulse or detectable breathing, begin CPR (ventilations and chest compressions) until help arrives or an automated external defibrillator prompts you to stop.
In the case of an automatic AED, it will continue to instruct you but will be delivering the shocks according to what it determines from monitoring the victim’s heart rhythm.
It’s important to understand that time is of the essence. The sooner you can begin using an AED towards resuscitating a person in cardiac arrest, the more likely they are to survive. That’s why it’s crucial to remember what the 7 steps of using an AED are, as well as to become educated on CPR. The more prepared people are in times of crisis, the better.