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Thousands of individuals experience cardiac arrest each year, and a high number of these cases occur outside of hospitals. That means that these individuals are at a higher risk of complications, long-term health effects, and death; in fact, only around 10% of individuals who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive. Learning how to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a common goal of individuals who want to be prepared in emergency situations, but understanding how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) could also help you save a life.

First Steps

Before utilizing any equipment or procedures, it is advised that you check whether the individual can be roused, if they are breathing, and if they have a pulse. If the person is not breathing and doesn’t have a pulse, it is imperative to contact emergency medical professionals and begin CPR immediately.

Using the AED

Defibrillators are user-friendly devices that do not require training and offer guidance to promote proper usage. However, it is better for users to be familiar with the technology so that they are able to perform the necessary actions in a stressful situation. In order to use the AED, you will first need to remove the individual’s clothing from their chest; if you cannot get their clothing off of them, cutting the fabric away from their skin will also suffice.

The AED contains sticky pads that will need to be applied to the individual’s chest. At this point, all physical contact (including CPR) should cease as there is a risk of electrocution. Before administering a shock, the AED will provide a warning to ensure the safety of surrounding individuals. After the shock, the AED will advise the continuation of CPR for a short period of time before requesting the assessment of the individual’s heart rate.

It is important to note that while the AED can be used without CPR, the individual will have the highest chance of survival and recovery if both are used together.

While medical training is certainly beneficial in emergency situations, AEDs are designed so that anyone can use them. In Australia, more public spaces and establishments are including AEDs in their first aid resources, so even when individuals experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, knowing how to find and use an AED can help save lives.