Automatic External Defibrillation (AED) – all you need to know
Dr Frank Pantridge is probably not someone you have heard of, but there’s a strong chance he has changed the course of your family or friends or maybe even yourself. You see this is the cardiologist that is credited with inventing the portable Defibrillator, an AED as it is also known, a device that can save someone whose heart has gone into cardiac arrest. The theory had been tried before this in the 1950s, but it was in 1965 that the very first prehospital Defibrillator was produced, I say portable, but it weighed 70kg, that’s about the weight of a person! Eventually, the team brought the design down in size and now we have the machines we see around our towns and shopping centres. People aren’t sure whether they can use them, whether they will get a shock themselves and the one I hear all the time is what if the casualty doesn’t need a defibrillator. Many fears and concerns about the machines are put aside with a little knowledge, and the results are massive, recent First Aid studies show that simply doing CPR alone gives the patient less than 6% chance of survival, using an AED within three minutes increases the chance of survival dramatically, around 70% chance of success. So why don’t people go for them?
Usually its fear of the unknown. The AED is a powerful piece of kit, it will deliver a shock powerful enough to light a football stadium. It’s around 200 joules of energy. It’s like being punched in the chest by 40 men at the same time. And it stops the heart. Which sounds scary. But the idea is by stopping the heart the pacemakers inside your heart can get control again. It’s kind of like a reset button for the heart, it stops it and allows it to get its regular rhythm again.
But anyone can use them. They are designed for someone that has no knowledge of first aid. We, at Siren First Aid Training, train kids to use them and they find so easy to do! You can find them in public places, supermarkets, railway stations and on walls outside buildings. Don’t smash the box, put your shoe back on and call 999 and they will give you the code to type into the keypad and send a crew out to you as well.
It’s always good to practice, and recent changes has meant that use of AED is included on the 1-day Emergency First Aid at Work course, which is always recommended with an experienced provider like Siren Training but here’s what happens.
- Prepare the patient by removing clothing form the upper body. Its bare-chested whether it’s a male or female casualty. If the guy is hairy there’s a razor in the pack, quickly clean the area of hair where the pad fits. A little safety advice here, don’t put the pad over anything metallic such as jewellery, or medical patches, etc. as it can cause burns which is why any clothing and things like bras should be removed before applying pads and is not a good idea to use them in standing water, but I think you kind of knew that already!
- Use them for all ages, just follow the directions on the machine and pads. There are pictures on the pads, but its upper right chest and lower left chest, a little to the side. But don’t worry, if you get it wrong the machine will pick it up and advise you to replace the pads in the correct position.
This is where you might worry, what if the casualty doesn’t need that shock, what if the heart isn’t in cardiac arrest? The machine will tell you. You can’t give a shock to a person whose heart is beating normally. The machine won’t fail, it checks itself every 24 hours for faults, the batteries in these things last for a few years and beep to warn you they are getting low. So, what you are using is a machine that’s ultra-safe, ultra-reliable and the one thing that can save this person if their heart is in a crazy rhythm.
So, when the machine says stand clear it’s so it doesn’t read the first aiders heartbeat if they are touching. Then just listen. The AED will direct you from here on. It will keep shocking every two minutes until the heart gets control again. Most machines can deliver around 30 shocks, so you’ll have a crew with you by then to take over the First Aid.
Dr Pantridge had a vision that these machines would be available in public places for people to go to in the event of a cardiac arrest. Its happening. And its saving lives, lots of lives. If you think your business or setting could benefit staff or your community get in touch and ask for advice on the best unit for you.
So, if someone collapses with a suspected cardiac arrest, get the machine on, it means you don’t have to make difficult medical decisions, this amazing piece of equipment takes control and if you missed something it will tell you, it’s like having your own personal paramedic alongside you.