A Defibrillator, also called an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), is a device used to treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest and can be a life saver. It sends a measured
electrical shock to the heart using electrode pads that have been attached to the
However, you should not be alarmed by this. Defibrillators operate via a simple step-by-step process. Because Defibrillators are so easy to use, it means that whenever a cardiac arrest strikes, anyone present in the vicinity can use it to possibly save life.
Surveys of the public have found that there are many myths and uncertainties
surrounding Defibrillator use, and these doubts may cause a lack of confidence in
people to intervene in the case of cardiac emergency. What is really important to remember is that if someone receives defibrillation within the first few minutes after Sudden Cardiac Arrest the Rate of survival increases by up to 70%. As the survival rate can be as low as 5% without defibrillation, it is obviously important that all members of the public are able and confident to use a Defibrillator when required.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
#1 – ARE YOU LEGALLY LIABLE IF YOU USE A DEFIBRILLATOR ON SOMEONE AND THEY DO NOT SURVIVE?
Defibrillators are designed to administer a carefully calculated shock which will not harm the patient. The settings on a Defibrillator are not able to be altered, and so the First Aid Responder has no liability if the casualty does not survive. ‘The Good Samaritan Act’ acknowledges that the First Aid Responder did everything
they could do to help revive the casualty and any loss of life is not their fault.
#2 – SHOULD I USE A DEFIBRILLATOR ON A PATIENT IF AN AMBULANCE HAS BEEN CALLED AND ARRIVAL IS IMMINENT?
When a victim is not responding or breathing, CPR and defibrillation is critical to give the best possible chance of survival. Each minute between sudden cardiac arrest and defibrillation can reduce the chance of survival by 10%, so urgency is required.
In an emergency, you should follow the DRSABCD plan, and so if cardiac arrest
occurs time is of the essence and defibrillation must be administered as soon as
possible. This can be the difference between life and death, the rule is act fast,
perform CPR and apply a defibrillator until emergency services arrive.
#3 – WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP?
Clothes should be removed (and in the case of females include under wire bras) and hair must be shaved from the chest area so that the pads can be positioned. Any hair has the potential to interfere with the strength of the shock delivered to the patient. The defibrillator pads must be placed directly on the skin to be certain that the instrument operates correctly.
#4 WILL THE DEFIBRILLATOR “SHOCK” IF NOT NEEDED?
Defibrillators are designed to read the rhythm of the heart and whether an electrical shock is required or not. If the Defibrillator finds the heart is beating normally, it will notify the First Aider that the shock is not required or advised. In this case even if the First Aid responder misunderstands and presses the ‘shock’ button the shock will not be delivered.
#5 WHERE SHOULD THE TWO DEFIBRILLATOR PADS BE PLACED?
The Defibrillator will have visual instructions on where the pads should be correctly placed. Wrongly placed pads will be recognised, and the First Air responder will be asked to re-position the pads correctly.
For adults, one pad should be placed on the top-right chest above the nipple and
below the collarbone in a diagonal direction facing towards the right shoulder. The
other Defibrillator pad should be placed horizontally on the left side of the casualty
underneath the nipple but above the belly button on the left side towards the
With children, one Defibrillator pad should be placed in the middle of the casualty’s chest between the nipples, between the collarbone and belly button. The other Defibrillator pad should be placed in the middle of the casualty’s back, directly between the two shoulder blades.
You can learn more about the difference between a heart attack and sudden
cardiac arrest here.