What Are Defibrillators Used For?

We have all heard the term “defibrillator”, but what does it actually mean?

We have all heard the term “defibrillator”, but what does it actually mean? As suppliers of this life-saving piece of medical equipment, this is a question we get asked quite often. This article provides a snapshot look at what defibrillators are, when to use them, and what symptoms to look for when suspecting a cardiac arrest. Given that the incidence rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is approximately 60,000 in a year in the UK (Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership) with fewer than 1 in 10 surviving, this can be life-saving information.  

The British Heart Foundation explains that defibrillators are used for restoring the heart’s normal rhythm in the circumstances of life-threatening arrhythmias or cardiac arrest. The device delivers an electric shock to the heart which interrupts the chaotic electrical activity, allowing the heart to reset and beat normally. Defibrillators are located in ambulances, hospitals, and public places such as airports, sports arenas, and shopping malls. They are often marked with a symbol (shown in the image below). The automatic defibrillators have AED written on the box, referring to Automatic External Defibrillators. 

When an AED is deployed and the user attaches the pads or electrodes on the victim’s chest, the unit determines whether the victim’s heart needs an electric shock or not. The defibrillation device instructs and guides the user on the next steps in the process. Many of the advanced models talk to the user to give clear instructions and automatically deliver the electric shock after the unit has assessed the cardiology of the patient. You cannot do anyone who is in cardiac arrest any harm by the application of a defibrillator (as stated by the Chief of London Ambulance Service) and it should be noted, that the device will not shock if no cardiac arrythmia is detected. 

If you suspect that someone is experiencing cardiac arrest and you will need an AED, search for the following symptoms:

  • The loss of a pulse
  • No breathing or gasping for air
  • The person suddenly collapses
  • The victim experiences a loss of consciousness
  • An extremely rapid or abnormal heart rhythm or no discernible heartbeat

Various circumstances can cause a person to experience cardiac arrest, ventricular fibrillation, arrhythmia, or an abnormal heart rhythm, which is when you should deliver defibrillation with AEDs alongside performing CPR.

Knowing how to use a defibrillator can be life-saving. Every minute without defibrillation reduces the victim’s survival chances by between 7% and 10%. A study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information suggested a minimum of 2-3 shocks are most closely related to long-term survival afterwards. Even though physical and underlying conditions vary in people, defibrillators greatly extend survival chances.

If you’re looking for more expert defibrillator advice, contact us today.

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