What Is a Defibrillator and How Does It Work?

There’s no doubt about it – defibrillators can save lives, as the people of Boston discovered not long ago. Consider the case of Robert, a 70-year-old man who suffered a cardiac arrest despite being previously active. It was thanks to his defibrillator implant that his heartbeat was restored.

At this point, you might stop and ask yourself – What is a defibrillator, and how does it work? In this article, we’ll unveil the secret behind this life-saving equipment and what it does to help save lives during emergencies so that you can gain the knowledge necessary.

How Defibrillators Work

A defibrillator is a device that delivers an electric shock to the heart to reinstate its normal rhythm during cardiac arrest. If the heart gets a sudden disruption of its electrical activity, this can result in a deadly condition called ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is characterized by rapid and chaotic electrical impulses in the heart, thus obstructing its ability to pump blood to the body’s vital organs effectively.

Aside from the purpose of restoring normal heart rhythm, defibrillators also assess the heart’s electrical activity for signs of need for a shock. New defibrillators have high-tech algorithms that allow them to read the rhythm of the patient’s heart and calculate the best time and strength for the shock. This technology guarantees that the shock is delivered precisely when required, preventing the risk of unneeded shocks and more heart damage.

Importance of Defibrillators In Emergencies

The role of defibrillators in emergencies cannot be underestimated. Cardiac arrest may come suddenly and unexpectedly, so it is paramount that a defibrillator is available readily. When a person suffers cardiac arrest, every minute passing without defibrillation lowers the probability of survival by 7 to 10%. This means that early defibrillation is key to improving survival.

Publicly accessible defibrillators, including automated external defibrillators (AEDs), are often deployed in public places, such as airports, shopping malls, and recreational centers. These are easy-to-use devices designed to be used by ordinary citizens with no or little medical background. Instructive and spoken directions make the defibrillator friendly and safe for bystanders to use.

Besides public access defibrillators, you can also find them in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. These are a main part of the medical team’s response to cardiac emergencies, and they go along with interventions like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), among others, to enhance the chance of better outcomes.

Different Types of Defibrillators

Different defibrillators are available, each designed for particular conditions and patient needs. The two main types are automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs). Let’s break these down below.

    • Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): AEDs are portable devices that are widely available in public places. Designed for non-medical personnel, they offer simple instructions and voice guidance on how to use them. AEDs examine the heartbeat and also supply a shock if required. They form a part of the chain of survival for sudden cardiac arrest and can, in this event, significantly improve the person’s chance of survival if you use them promptly. Having access to an on-site automated external defibrillator (AED) immediately boosts the survival rate to 50%-74%.

    • Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators (ICDs): In contrast to AEDs, ICDs are placed inside the body. They’re meant for individuals at high risk of sudden cardiac arrest as a result of heart disease. ICDs constantly monitor the heartbeat and deliver a shock if a life-threatening arrhythmia is detected. These are recommended for patients who have experienced cardiac arrest or have a history of certain heart conditions.

Understanding the Steps to Using a Defibrillator

Although initially unfamiliar with the device, using a defibrillator is rather simple after some instruction. Here are the main steps that can help you use a defibrillator:

    • Make Sure the Surroundings Are Safe. You must ensure safety before approaching a person who is in cardiac arrest. Make sure that the person and the people around him are safe from any dangers, for example, traffic or electrical hazards.

    • Call for Help. Dial 911 or contact emergency medical services. During a cardiac arrest, time is of utmost importance, and it’s necessary to call a professional help immediately.

    • Do Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Start chest compressions shortly, but only if an AED isn’t available, as it ensures blood flow until one becomes available.

    • Get the Defibrillator. If an AED is available, then get it and turn it on. By design, AEDs are self-contained and very straightforward. Listen to the verbal instructions and perform the patient’s chest preparation for electrode application.

    • Apply the Electrodes. Place the electrode pads on the patient’s uncovered chest where indicated by the AED. Make sure the pads are strongly fastened and well positioned.

    • Take a Step back and Observe the Heart Rhythm. Stand clear once the electrodes are in place and allow the AED to read the heart’s rhythm. The device will identify the need for a shock.

    • Apply the Shock. If the defibrillator notifies you that a shock is needed, it will let you know when to apply it. Prepare for shock delivery by following the instructions and make sure that nobody touches the patient.

    • Perform CPR. After you have delivered the shock, get back to administering CPR and continue to do so until professionals arrive or the person regains consciousness.

The Role of Defibrillators In Saving Lives

Defibrillators are pivotal in resuscitation during cardiac emergencies. When used timely and correctly, they can bring back a normal heart rhythm and considerably raise a person’s chances of survival. We’re all about drawing attention to how crucial timely defibrillation is, as for every minute defibrillation is delayed, the density of successful resuscitation drops.

Placing defibrillators in public spaces has been a key factor in saving lives. Trained bystanders with an AED on hand can intervene and render helpful interventions before medical services arrive. These devices are now indispensable interlinks in the chain of survival, for instance, early recognition, continuous cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and advanced medical care.

In healthcare systems, defibrillators are central to emergency response. Medical teams are trained to attend to cardiac emergencies swiftly and ensure prompt delivery of the appropriate interventions, including defibrillation. The availability of defibrillators in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities grants patients a chance to get swift life-saving treatments.

Regulations and Guidelines for Defibrillator Use

To ensure that defibrillators are used safely and effectively, there’s a regulatory framework for their use. These regulations differ by country and jurisdiction but tend to standardize training, maintenance, and accessibility of defibrillators.

In several countries, AEDs have to meet specific quality and safety standards before they come to market or can be used. These standards guarantee that the devices are robust, user-friendly, and safe for the patient and the user. The organizations usually charge with these principles and offer advice and recommendations for installing, maintaining, and using AEDs.

The training and certification requirements for operating defibrillators are also jurisdiction-dependent. Other countries may mandate training only specific groups e.g. healthcare professionals, or minimal training for using public access defibrillators. The requirements aim to ensure that you’re adequately trained and competent if you use a defibrillator.

The Importance of Widespread Access to Defibrillators

So, what is a defibrillator, and how does it work? Well, the defibrillator is a lifesaving device that plays a critical role in emergency medicine. It’s vital to know how defibrillators work and how helpful they are to cardiac emergencies. The proper training and availability of defibrillators allow you to go into an emergency cardiac situation and save a life.

Increasing the availability of defibrillators in public places is paramount in improving survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest. What can also help is for you to sign up with our CPR & AED classes in Boston to learn how to use them both correctly.