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AEDs are simple to use medical devices that allow relatively untrained people to save lives. The speed of using an AED when a cardiac arrest occurs has a very important impact on saving of a life. The quicker the device is used, the more likely the cardiac arrest victim will survive.
For a person who can maintain their composure, an AED can be used along with CPR to save a life. Extensive training is not needed. Using an AED is as simple as turning it on and following the instructions the device provides. For most automated external defibrillators there are simple universal steps, as follows:
The primary training needed to save a life using an AED involves ensuring use of the AED is done safely, and knowing how to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). Ensuring no one is touching a patient while the AED is analyzing the heart rhythm and while delivering a shock is very important, both for the survival of the patient and the safety of rescuers.
CPR is an important part of saving the life of a person in cardiac arrest. By performing CPR, life sustaining oxygen is pumped throughout the body which keeps the cells in the body alive. This is needed to re-start a heart that has stopped pumping blood on its own. Simplified CPR is now the Standard, and this involves compressing the chest about 2 inches (5 cm) at a rate of about 100 compressions per minute. Many modern AEDs provide a metronome which provides the correct compression rate.
The specific training needed for a particular make and model of AED is most importantly centred on the electrode pads. Each manufacturer has their own method of electrode pad storage. Depending on the model, the electrode pads may be stored in a container, a pouch or in a particular part of the device. Additionally, once the electrode pad package is opened, each manufacturer has a different configuration of pad storage and how they are to be placed on a patient. Rescuers should be familiar with the pad opening and placement for their specific AED. Confusion at this point in performing a rescue can delay the life saving treatment.
Knowing that your AED is “Rescue-Ready” is obviously a most important part in using the device to save a life. All modern automated external defibrillators licensed for use in Canada have a self test feature to ensure the device is ready to perform at a moment’s notice. Some AEDs perform this self test daily, others test weekly, monthly or quarterly. Even though this testing occurs, periodic observation of the device’s status indicator needs to be performed. All AEDs have different status indicators. Some have flashing lights and audible alarms while others may have different indicators. Once an AED detects a problem during a self-test it may start to use additional battery power in attempting to notify users. If the device is not regularly checked the result can be a fully discharged battery, which would make the AED useless in an emergency. In addition to the potential loss of life in this situation, a business or organization could have significant liability for not properly maintaining their emergency equipment.
MediQuest recommends purchasing AEDs that contain two batteries – one for self-testing and one for rescue. When an AED has only one battery, we recommend having a spare. Most manufacturers provide this recommendation in their user manual.