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Automated External Defibrillators (AED) (cont.)

How to Operate an Automated External Defibrillator

  • Regardless of which brand of AED is used, the only knowledge required to operate it is to press the "ON" button.
  • Once the AED is turned on, it actually speaks to you in a computer-generated voice that guides you through the rest of the procedure.
  • You will be prompted to place a set of adhesive electrode pads on the victim's bare chest and, if necessary, to plug in the pads' connector to the AED.
  • The AED will then begin to automatically analyze the person's ECG rhythm to determine if a shock is required. It is critical that no contact be made with the person while the machine is analyzing the ECG. If the person is touched or disturbed, the ECG may not be accurate.
  • If the machine determines that a shock is indicated, it will automatically charge itself and tell you when to press the button that will deliver the shock.
  • This shock is the same shock that would be delivered be a physician in the emergency department or a paramedic in the ambulance, if the patient were being treated there.
  • Once the shock is delivered you will be prompted to resume CPR.

Automated External Defibrillator Use in Children

Although ventricular fibrillation is more common in adults than in children, it is now recognized that it occurs more frequently in children than was once thought.

For example:

  • Children with congenital heart defects are at risk for rhythm abnormalities such as ventricular fibrillation.
  • Some children go into ventricular fibrillation because of commotio cordis.
Commotio cordis is a syndrome in which a blow to the chest during a relatively brief, specific time period during the heart rhythm cycle can cause ventricular fibrillation.
  • This condition was once thought of as a mysterious syndrome of sudden death in young athletes.
  • It is now recognized as a preventable and reversible cause of ventricular fibrillation in children.
The problem with AED use in children is that, unless the child's heart is of a certain size, the amount of current delivered (originally intended for the adult heart) could actually damage the child's much smaller heart and prevent resuscitation.
  • If a child is the size of a typical eight-year old, the adult AED protocol is followed.
  • For children older than one year of age but less than the size of an eight-year old, AED manufacturers provide cables capable of reducing the amount of energy that an AED delivers, making it safe to use on the children. When an AED is used on a child, the pediatric cable is used; when an AED is used on an adult (age eight years and older) the adult cable is used.
  • Manual defibrillation is the preferred method of defibrillation in infants, however, if only an AED is available, it is recommended that a pediatric AED cable be used for infant defibrillation.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/28/2016

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