Defibrillators — Everything You Need to Know

Sep 13, 2022

Defibrillators — Everything You Need to Know

When someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest, their survival chances increase drastically if first responders can correctly use a defibrillator or AED to shock the heart and return the heartbeat to normal.

Whether a medical professional or not, chances are you have seen some type of defibrillator either in a medical space or in a public access setting such as a community center or school. But could you use one if the need ever arose? How does a defibrillator work?

In this guide, we’ll answer some of the most common defibrillator questions and discuss how and when to use these life-saving devices.

Defining defibrillators

What is a defibrillator? While there are many different defibrillator devices, they all perform the same function. All defibrillators shock a heart with an irregular heartbeat, helping it to return to a normal rhythm.

When to use a defibrillator

Defibrillators are used when a person’s heart has fallen into an abnormal heart rhythm or life-threatening arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. They’re only used when someone suffers from sudden cardiac arrest, has fallen unconscious, is not breathing or has no pulse.

How to use a defibrillator

One of the most common defibrillator devices is the Automated External Defibrillator (AED), which anyone can use, even non-medical personnel — this is one of the benefits of an AED vs defibrillators used only by medical professionals. An AED automatically analyses the heart rhythm to detect irregular heartbeats. If it finds an abnormal heart rate, it will deliver a shock to restart the heart.

Before using a defibrillator, you must first confirm that the person is in cardiac arrest, call 000 and begin CPR. You must also ensure that the patient is not in or near water. Once you have done this, you can use an AED by following these steps:

  1. Turn on the AED and follow any instructions it gives.
  2. Remove metal jewellery and do not place the pads over a pacemaker if the patient has one. You may need to shave a portion of the patient’s chest if it is particularly hairy.
  3. Attach the electrode pads to the bare skin of the chest, one below the collarbone on the righthand side, the other at the base of the heart.
  4. Allow the AED to analyse the patient’s heartbeat.
  5. If a shock is necessary, ensure that the victim is clear, then press the shock button on the AED device.
  6. Continue administering CPR. Repeat steps 4-6 until emergency medical professionals arrive.

Other common defibrillator FAQs

What does a defibrillator do?

These devices used electrical shocks to help restore a normal heartbeat to a heart that is beating unevenly or help a stopped heart beat again.

How does a defibrillator work?

To restart the heart, a defibrillator works by depolarising the heart muscle with a small electrical shock which serves to recharge the heart’s cells. Once depolarised, the heart can restart with a normal rhythm.

How do you know when to use defibrillators?

These devices are only intended for use in cases of cardiac arrest. Some of the signs associated with cardiac arrest include:

  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Burning pain in the chest
  • Wheezing or coughing

How many types of defibrillators are there?

There are several different types of defibrillators, and each one works slightly differently. There are four main types:

  • Manual defibrillators
  • Automated external defibrillators (AEDs)
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs)
  • Wearable cardioverter defibrillators (WCDs)

Which is better? — AED vs manual defibrillator

When it comes to manual defibrillator vs AED models, the difference is in how much control the responder has over the device. Almost anyone, even untrained first responders, can operate an AED because it provides instructions, is easy to use and is mostly automated.

Manual defibrillators have more capabilities than AEDs and are adjustable to better meet the patient’s needs. However, these devices should only be used by medical professionals.

How much is a defibrillator in Australia?

AEDs generally cost around $1500 to $4000, and the manual defibrillators used by medical professionals are often even more expensive.

Protecting your defibrillator is a must because it is a monetary investment for your space and — more importantly — because a working defibrillator ensures the best outcome for your patient. To that end, our team at Mega Medical is proud to offer AED equipment servicing to help ensure that your defibrillator devices are safe and in working order.

To learn more about our services or medical supplies, please reach out to us today online or by calling 1300 881 824.