When and How to Use an AED During CPR

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are valuable tools in the chain of survival for individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. When used in conjunction with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), AEDs can significantly improve the chances of survival. In this blog post, we will explore when and how to use an AED in conjunction with CPR, providing a comprehensive guide to effectively responding to cardiac emergencies.

When to Use an AED

The use of an AED is most beneficial in specific situations:

  1. Unconsciousness and No Normal Breathing: An AED should be used when you come across an unconscious person who is not breathing normally. Check for unresponsiveness and the absence of normal breathing (or gasping) to determine if AED use is warranted.
  2. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA): AEDs are specifically designed to treat SCA, which occurs when the heart's electrical system malfunctions, leading to an irregular heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia). SCA victims often lose consciousness and have no pulse.

How to Use an AED in Conjunction with CPR

When responding to a cardiac emergency, follow these steps to use an AED in conjunction with CPR:

1. Assess the Scene and Ensure Safety:

  • Ensure that the scene is safe for both you and the victim. Check for any hazards or dangers, such as traffic or electrical hazards.

2. Confirm Unresponsiveness:

  • Gently tap the victim and shout loudly, "Are you okay?" If there is no response, the victim is unresponsive.

3. Call for Help:

  • Dial 911 or your local emergency number to activate professional assistance. Inform the dispatcher about the situation and your location.

4. Begin CPR:

  • Start CPR immediately by initiating chest compressions. Position the heel of one hand on the center of the victim's chest (usually over the lower half of the breastbone or sternum) and place the other hand on top. Push hard and fast at a rate of about 100-120 compressions per minute. Allow the chest to fully recoil between compressions.
  • Continue CPR until an AED arrives and is ready for use or until professional help arrives. Consistent chest compressions maintain circulation and oxygenation until the AED is available.

5. Retrieve and Prepare the AED:

  • If an AED is available, retrieve it and turn it on. Follow the device's voice prompts and visual instructions. Some AEDs may require you to press a button to activate them.

6. Expose the Chest and Attach Electrodes:

  • Expose the victim's bare chest. Remove any clothing or items that may interfere with electrode placement.
  • Attach the AED electrodes to the victim's chest as per the manufacturer's instructions. Typically, there are two electrodes—one placed on the upper right chest and the other on the lower left side of the chest.

7. Analyze the Heart Rhythm:

  • Let the AED analyze the victim's heart rhythm. Make sure no one is touching the victim during this analysis.

8. Follow Voice Prompts:

  • If the AED detects a shockable rhythm (ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia), it will instruct you to deliver a shock. Ensure that no one is touching the victim and press the shock button as instructed.

9. Resume CPR:

  • After delivering the shock, immediately resume CPR, starting with chest compressions. Continue to follow the AED's voice prompts and visual instructions.

10. Continue Cycles:

  • Continue to follow the AED's prompts and alternate between delivering shocks and performing CPR cycles until one of the following occurs:
    • Professional help arrives and takes over.
    • The victim shows signs of life (such as breathing or moving).
    • You become too exhausted to continue.

Additional Considerations

  • Clear Communication: Ensure clear communication among responders. Designate one person to manage the AED and another to perform chest compressions to maintain coordination.
  • Pediatric Use: Some AEDs have pediatric settings or pediatric electrode pads. When using an AED on a child (usually under 8 years old or weighing less than 55 pounds), follow the manufacturer's guidelines for pediatric use.
  • Water and Moist Environments: Some AEDs are designed for use in wet environments. If you are near water or in a moist environment, make sure you use an AED that is suitable for such conditions.
  • Practice and Familiarity: Familiarize yourself with the AED you have access to, as AED models may vary. Regular training and practice can help you feel more confident in using an AED effectively.

The use of an AED in conjunction with CPR can greatly increase the chances of survival for individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. By promptly initiating CPR, activating emergency services, and correctly using an AED following its voice prompts, you can contribute to the chain of survival and make a lifesaving difference in a cardiac emergency. Remember that timely and effective response is key, and your actions can significantly impact the outcome for the victim.

 CPR + First Aid Certification

Back to blog