A Crash Course on Defibrillators

Defibrillators are life-saving devices that you can find in hospitals, ambulances, and care facilities. While we may all be familiar with the sight of a defibrillator, or at least the device’s storage case, knowing how to use a defibrillator is another thing entirely. For more information on these common yet unknown devices, read on.

What is a Defibrillator?

A defibrillator is a device doctors and emergency workers use to treat life-threatening conditions that alter the heartbeat. An irregular heartbeat can be deadly and is most commonly seen in conditions like cardiac arrhythmia, ventricular fibrillation, and pulseless ventricular tachycardia. Doctors may also use defibrillators when a patient enters cardiac arrest, and their heart stops beating.

The device itself is meant to restart the heart. The most common kind of defibrillator is the external defibrillator, characterized by its two large pads attached to the rest of the device. However, intravenous defibrillators and defibrillator implants exist as well, and they are more likely to be found in hospitals.

How do They Work?

Defibrillators work by sending an electric pulse or shock through the heart. Similar to an EMS unit, a defibrillator’s shock stimulates the heart muscle, allowing it to return to a normal rhythm.

AED defibrillators use electrodes just like an EMS unit does, although these electrodes are much larger. The defibrillator device reads the patient’s heartbeat through the electrodes and then analyzes this rhythm to determine if an electric shock is needed, and how strong it needs to be.

An implanted defibrillator is surgically placed inside the chest, right near the heart. From there, it monitors the heart’s rhythm to detect any pattern changes. When necessary, the device will send a light shock to keep the heartbeat regular.

How to Use a Defibrillator

If someone needs immediate medical attention and requires defibrillation, time is everything. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, immediately call 911 and begin CPR.  If emergency services cannot arrive at your location quickly enough, it is important to know how to use a nearby defibrillator. Most public places have external defibrillators for this purpose, and these defibrillators often come with instructions as well. Do not interrupt CPR to retrieve a defibrillator.

To use a defibrillator, you’ll first need to turn it on via the green button. Next, remove the sticky pads that protect the electrodes, and place them directly on the patient’s skin. Electrode pads go on either side of the patient’s chest as shown:

Electrode pads on Patients Chest

Once the pads are attached, let the device analyze the patient’s heart rhythm. At this point, you can stop CPR. If a shock is needed, the defibrillator will notify you to press the “shock” button. Some defibrillators, however, use automatic shocks, and no button press is required. Do not touch the patient while they are being shocked.

After the shock has been delivered, the defibrillator may tell you to continue CPR. If so, continue CPR until the patient shows signs of life or the defibrillator goes to analyze the patient’s heartbeat again.

To browse defibrillators and defibrillator accessories, visit the Medical Supply Depot.

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