The Function of Automated External Defibrillators


When a person experiences cardiac arrest or a heart attack, a defibrillator is placed on the chest and an electric current or shock is channeled via electrodes or paddles.  The shock is intended to jolt the patient’s elevated and chaotic heart rhythm back into a normal range, thus returning blow flow to normal levels.  But in the case of the automated external defibrillator, or AED, the device determines whether or not a shock is warranted, and if so, what level of energy is required to revive the patient.  The user cannot override the determination of the AED, and therefore an inexperienced person without medical training need not worry about using the defibrillator on a patient not actually in cardiac arrest.

Due to this drastically reduced risk of abuse, the AED has become a fixture at various public forums such as airports, casinos or sports arenas.  There have been many cases where individuals, particularly athletes or the elderly, have been stricken by sudden cardiac arrest only to be saved by the presence of an automated external defibrillator.

One brand of AED available to the public, the Zoll AED Plus, has many features designed to make the use of the defibrillator as simple as possible for someone with little or no medical background.  It includes a graphical user interface and voice prompts that will walk the user, step by step, through the entire process, as well as a single pad that eliminates the confusion of placing electrodes on the patient’s body.  In addition the Zoll AED Plus runs on conventional batteries, promising both convenience and financial savings.

The American Heart Association strongly supports the placement of Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs in any public places where immediate cardiac care may be needed.  Other prime targets include shopping malls, gated communities and office complexes. 

For those interested in purchasing an AED for use in their community or organization, the FDA may require a physician’s prescription for the device.  Your local EMS system can assist you in determining the local and state protocols for owning and operating an AED.

There are also AED training and education courses available through the American Heart Association.  One such course is the new Heartsaver AED course that combines CPR and AED training.

With the immergence of Automated External Defibrillators or AEDs, the potentially life saving measure of averting cardiac arrest has been made available to the general public with a very low risk of misuse or abuse.  As AEDs continue to appear in more and more public domains, the hope is that the tragic results of sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack can be reduced significantly, giving regular people the chance to be a hero.

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

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