AEDs. What are they?
Q: What does AED stand for?
A: AED stands for “Automated External Defibrillator.” AEDs are used to deliver lifesaving electroshock therapy to someone who is suffering a cardiac arrest. They are designed to be as straight forward and easy to use as possible, to allow non-medically trained people the best chance possible to save a life.
Q: How does it work?
A: Every AED has two pads (called electrodes) connected to the machine that must be placed on a patient’s chest. The AED then analyzes the patient’s heart rhythm to determine if a shock will be needed to save the patient. If it is needed, the AED will instruct the rescuer through the steps necessary to save the person’s life.
Q: What is SCA?
A: SCA stands for “Sudden Cardiac Arrest”. SCA happens when the electrical signals in the heart go into disarray, causing a lack of blood to be pumped to the brain, and the victim to go unconscious. This condition is called “Ventricular Fibrulation”. Over 35,000 deaths per year occur from SCA in Canada. When this happens, the victim only has minutes to be saved. Only defibrillation can stop VF.
Q: What is the difference between SCA and a Heart Attack?
A: While SCA is an electrical problem with the heart, a Heart Attack happens when there is blockage in the aorta. While sometimes difficult to tell the difference, a Heart Attack victim will often maintain consciousness, whereas an SCA victim will most often be unconscious.
More Info About Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
- SCA is a condition where the electrical system of the heart short circuits, causing an abnormal rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation.
- A victim of sudden cardiac arrest is unconscious, is not breathing and has no pulse. When the heart stops beating there is a lack of oxygen to the brain and a patient will die unless emergency treatment is given immediately. Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery results in damage to the heart muscle by keeping blood and oxygen flowing to it. A heart attack can lead to a cardiac arrest.
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest is one of the leading causes of death around the world.
- It strikes 40,000 people in Canada every year.
- Only 5 – 10% of victims survive.
- Every minute of every day SCA claims a victim.
- Victims of all ages have been documented including teens, athletes, young and older adults.
- The time between the onset of cardiac arrest and defibrillation is the major determinant for success in a resuscitation attempt. While cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can support circulation and ventilation in a victim of cardiac arrest for a short period of time, it is unlikely to convert ventricular fibrillation (VF) to a normal heart rhythm.
Where should you expect to find AEDs?
Q: How do I know if I should get an AED?
A: Anyone can fall victim to SCA at any time, regardless of age, gender or lifestyle (although the risk percentage does increase depending on these factors). AEDs are being placed anywhere there are gatherings of people; in the office or factory, events centres, family cottages, golf courses, condo buildings, etc. The ideal placement of an AED is that no matter where someone has SCA, an AED can be retrieved and brought to the victim in 3 minutes or less. Buildings that contain AEDs usually will have a sticker indicating an AED inside, along with some signage directing to where the AED is kept, on a wall, in a cabinet, in an office, etc.
Q: How do I determine which AED is the best choice for my business/organization/home?
A: While all AEDs function very similarily, there are a few things to look for. Public Access AEDs should be as easy to use as possible for non-medically trained people. Avoid AEDs that may be too confusing for the lay-rescuer, too many visual, audio instructions, too many details on the electrodes, etc. Choosing an AED with escalating energy is also important, as no two body types are the same, and more energy may be needed for more difficult to defibrillate patients.
Q: What does the Heart & Stroke Foundation say about AEDs?
A: The Heart & Stroke is a strong advocate for having publicly accessible defibrillators everywhere there are gatherings of people. You can view the entire Heart & Stroke position on AEDs in the link below. There are many great resources on the Heart & Stroke website!
How difficult is it to use an AED?
Q: Can I shock someone with an AED if they don’t need it?
A: AEDs are designed to be extremely safe to use. AEDs will only deliver a shock when the electrodes have been properly attached to a patient, and the AED reads that the patient has a specific, shockable rhythm.
Q: Is it safe to use an AED on a child?
A: All AEDs have some form of infant/child specific electrodes or settings, for a patient under 8 years of age, or approximately 55 lbs. Even if the AED does not have a set of infant/child pads nearby, it is advised to use the adult electrodes, as any action is better than none. The electrodes are placed on the front and back of the child, rather than front and side as depicted on the electrodes.
Q: Are there any legal implications for using an AED?
A: In Canada there are Provincial and Federal Good Samaritan Laws, stating that as long as the rescuer acted in good faith attempting to save a victim from death, they are protected. Recently, provinces have begun to use language specifically referencing AEDs.
Is there any maintenance for an AED?
Q: How often do I need to change the battery on my AED
A: All AEDs have some variation of a lithium battery pack that must be replaced anywhere from every 2-5 years. The battery may need to be replaced more frequently if the AED is used. The AED will inform you when the battery pak needs to be replaced, however it is important to record when the battery was installed so you can plan for an approximate replacement date.
Our Free AED Registry System can assist you with tracking these expiry dates.
Q: Do the electrodes need to be replaced?
A: The electrode pads for your AED should be replaced approx. every 2 years. The pads are made with a water-based gel, which does eventually dry up over time, so it is important to always have current electrode pads with your AED.