What is an AED?

The Automated External Defibrillator, or AED for short, is a medical device used in response to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. The sophisticated yet intuitive machine can analyze a victim’s ECG reading and administer lifesaving shocks if necessary-also known as defibrillation!

While it’s always recommended that potential responders are trained on the operation and administration of AED, The AED units themselves are easy enough to use that a completely un-trained responder can deliver lifesaving shocks.

Of course, you can – and should – request the assistance of trained medical professionals. However, The average response time for first responders is 8-12 minutes, and if you don't have access to an AED, your chances of survival are reduced by 10% every minute after collapse.

Applying an AED to a victim of cardiac arrest is simple. Upon arrival to the scene, you should start by calling 911 and then turning on the AED device. The unit will begin with verbal directives to apply electrodes to patient’s bare chest. From there, the unit will announce that it is “analyzing… analyzing” and read the victim’s ECG to determine whether or not the heart is in a shockable rhythm.

If the victim’s heart is in a shockable rhythm, the unit will advise the responder that “Shock is advised” and to step back. It will further direct you to either push the shock button (if the AED is a semi-automatic model) or announce that you should “Stand back… shock will be delivered in 3, 2, 1” (if the AED is a fully-automatic model). If the heart is not in a shockable rhythm, the unit will announce “Shock not advised, begin CPR compressions”.

Many AED units have CPR help features, such as metronomes, feedback modules, or rate readers to help ensure that consistent, quality compressions are being administered. A responder would follow these directions as given by the unit.

After some time administering CPR compressions, the unit will analyze the heart rhythm again, looking for a shockable rhythm. These steps may repeat one to several times as necessary. This process should be repeated as per the AED units’ directives until emergency services arrive. From there, EMS should take control of the response.

Again, the key to proper AED response is a quick time-to-application. Every second counts, so it is imperative that an AED is quickly retrieved and applied as per the instructions given by the unit. Having an AED wherever people gather is of utmost importance. The time it takes to apply the defibrillator may be the difference between life and death!

Aed resource center