AED is an acronym that stands for "Automated External Defibrillator." An AED is a portable medical device used to treat individuals who experience sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition where the heart suddenly stops beating effectively. AEDs are designed to deliver an electric shock to the heart, known as defibrillation, which can potentially restore a normal heart rhythm.
Here's a closer look at what AEDs are and how they work:
AEDs are "automated" in the sense that they are designed to be easy to use, even by individuals without extensive medical training. They typically come with clear and simple instructions, voice prompts, and visual guides to walk the user through the steps of using the device.
AEDs are "external" because they are applied to the outside of a person's body. They do not require surgery or invasive procedures. The device's pads or electrodes are placed on the person's chest, and the AED analyzes the heart's rhythm to determine if a shock is needed.
AEDs are "defibrillators." Defibrillation is the process of delivering an electric shock to the heart to disrupt abnormal electrical activity and allow the heart to reestablish a normal rhythm. AEDs are equipped to provide this life-saving treatment when someone is in cardiac arrest.
How AEDs Work:
When someone experiences cardiac arrest, their heart may enter a chaotic rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF) or a rapid, irregular rhythm called ventricular tachycardia (VT). In both cases, the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, which can be fatal within minutes.
AEDs work by analyzing the person's heart rhythm through the electrodes placed on their chest. The device's built-in computer assesses whether a shockable rhythm (VF or VT) is present. If a shockable rhythm is detected, the AED will instruct the user to stand clear and deliver a controlled electric shock to the person's chest.
The shock temporarily stops the heart's electrical activity, allowing the heart's natural pacemaker to reset and potentially restore a normal rhythm. It's important to note that defibrillation is most effective when administered promptly, which is why AEDs are crucial in increasing the chances of survival for individuals in cardiac arrest.
AEDs are commonly found in public places, healthcare facilities, and many workplaces to ensure quick access in case of emergencies. While using an AED, it's important to follow the device's prompts and, if available, coordinate with emergency medical services (EMS) for professional assistance. Early defibrillation, when combined with CPR, significantly improves the chances of survival for individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.