Understanding the AED Defibrillation Process

Understanding the AED Defibrillation Process

Understanding the AED Defibrillation Process is important to be as prepared as possible. Theoretically, defibrillation is quite simple – delivering electrical shocks to the heart to restore the normal heart rhythm. However, in practice, the defibrillation process isn’t as easy as it sounds. You must follow multiple rules and protocols to administer successful and life-saving defibrillation.

This includes knowing how to use the chest pads, when to deliver a shock, when to perform the CPR procedure, (which can be learned with a CPR class) and much more. The good news is that the defibrillation process always stays the same – it doesn’t matter if it’s about AEDs, ICDs, or WCDs.

In the following text, we’ll elaborate more on the topic to better understand the AED defibrillation process and how it saves lives.

AED Defibrillation: What Is It?

Understanding the AED Defibrillation Process will also involve learning more about an AED. This process uses a device that produces electrical impulses, which are then transferred to the heart through the chest pads.

As we already mentioned, the defibrillation process has a single goal – to restore the normal heart rhythm of the cardiac arrest victim or reverse the heart’s fibrillation.

Fibrillation Causes

Fibrillation is a condition in which the heart’s upper chambers (the two atria) are beating irregularly. This disruption doesn’t allow enough blood flow to the lower two heart chambers (the ventricles).

This condition can also happen because of an opposite process. Such cases are the arrhythmias like Ventricular Tachycardia (V-Tach) and Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib). When these fibrillation emergencies happen, the lower two heart chambers (the ventricles) contract rapidly and irregularly.

All fibrillation types are related to the irregular work of the heart’s electrical system. You can correct fibrillation in many ways, including therapies, pills, diets, and other programs. The most effective and efficient method, especially in emergency conditions, is using an AED.

What Is Cardioversion?

Understanding the AED Defibrillation Process involves understanding the cardioversion process. This process works on the same principle but uses lower-energy shocks than AEDs.

Bystanders, emergency responders, and medical workers can use an automated external defibrillator to restore the normal heart rhythm of the cardiac arrest victim. Nevertheless, this can also be achieved with cardioversion.

Cardioversion is a quick response process used for different types of arrhythmias. It treats lighter arrhythmias and prevents them from developing into something dangerous – the opposite of an AED defibrillation which treats arrhythmias like V-Tach and V-Fib. These two heart rhythms can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and thus must be treated immediately.

Aside from the strength of shocks, another difference is the time of treatment. Cardioversion treats arrhythmia regularly (on a weekly or monthly basis), while an AED is used in an emergency.

Can We Perform Defibrillation Only With AEDs?

You should know that defibrillation isn’t only limited to automated external defibrillators, as other devices can also provide automated defibrillation. The most popular ones, besides the AEDs, are the ICDs and WCDs. The ICD stands for Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, while WCD stands for Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator.

These devices use the same principle to perform defibrillation on arrhythmia or cardiac arrest patients. The only difference is that the ICD is implanted within the patient’s body. On the other hand, the WCD is a wearable device that can deliver shocks once it recognizes a potentially dangerous heart rhythm.

Why Use AED Defibrillation?

Organizations like the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross always recommend AEDs for cardiac arrest patients. They even set guidelines and recommendations to increase survival outcomes and prevent brain function impairments and other neurological dysfunctions. But why is this important?

The human heart has to pump 24/7 to keep us alive and deliver enough blood and oxygen to other organs and tissues. It has an autonomous electrical system which is located in the sinus node. That is why the sinus node is also called the “heart’s natural pacemaker.” It produces electrical impulses – 60 to 100 per minute in normal circumstances.

When the person suffers a cardiac arrest or life-threatening arrhythmias, the sinus node starts producing irregular impulses, and the heartbeat rapidly increases. It’s in emergencies like these when we should use the automated external defibrillator to restore and maintain the proper work of the sinus node.

How Does An AED Work?

Understanding the AED defibrillation process is the same as understanding how the device works. The automated external defibrillator analyzes the heart’s rhythm and then delivers electrical shocks if necessary.

The AED classifies the cardiac arrest or arrhythmia victim’s heartbeat as shockable or non-shockable. If the device recognizes the heart rhythm as shockable, it will provide you with audio prompts for administering a shock.

However, this is for fully automated AEDs. This device uses an algorithm to quickly evaluate the severity of the arrhythmia and classify it as shockable or non-shockable. If the device you use is semi-automated, note that you’ll have to give the electrical shock yourself.

The simplest yet most important rule of AED defibrillation is that you shouldn’t shock a heart with a non-shockable heart rhythm. The defibrillation process can sometimes stop at the heart rhythm analysis, meaning that you will have to proceed with the performance of the CPR procedure.

How To Perform AED Defibrillation?

As you have seen so far, the AED defibrillation process is quite simple. The AED devices are easy-to-use, and you can learn the full defibrillation process with a few simulations. According to the American Red Cross, you should follow seven simple steps to administer a successful AED defibrillation.

Here’s a simplified version of how to perform an AED defibrillation process:


      1. Check and make calls: Firstly, you must be sure that the person has suffered a sudden cardiac arrest or is in any situation that actually requires the use of an AED. The next thing you should do is immediately call 911.

      1. Find an available AED: There are publicly-available AEDs. If you find one, turn it on and follow the audio prompts.

      1. Make preparations for AED use: Turn the person on their back and be sure that they’re lying on a flat, firm, and non-conductive surface. Remove all upper clothing and wipe the chest dry if necessary, but under any circumstance, do not use alcohol to do so.

      1. Prepare for heart rhythm analysis: Attach one pad on the upper right side of the chest. Attach the other pad on the lower left side of the chest (right beneath the armpit). Connect the pad plug with the AED and begin analyzing the heart’s rhythm.

      1. Deliver shocks: If the device recognizes the heartbeat as shockable, it will provide you with audio prompts. Make sure that nobody touches the patient and push the “shock” button. If the AED classifies the heart rhythm as non-shockable, skip this step and go straight to the next one.

      1. Proceed to CPR: After the AED delivers a shock, proceed to give CPR.

    The Importance of CPR in AED Defibrillation

    The cardiopulmonary resuscitation procedure is complementary to the AED defibrillation process. Sometimes an electrical impulse isn’t enough to restore the proper heart rhythm and blood flow through all the bodily organs.

    CPR mimics the work of the heart and ensures blood and oxygen flow to critical organs like the brain, the nervous system, and others. Sometimes the AED device will classify the heart rhythm as non-shockable. In these cases, fast, hard, and uninterrupted chest compressions are mandatory. In other cases, an AED device might not even be available, which is why being CPR certified can be of great help.

    Otherwise, after each electrical shock, you must proceed to a two-minute CPR cycle before you administer the next shock. This way, you’ll significantly increase the survival outcomes of the cardiac arrest patient.

    Final Thoughts: Understanding the AED Defibrillation Process

    The AED defibrillation process is quite simple. It uses an electrical device to restore the normal heart rhythm by supporting and maintaining the heart’s electrical system. This process has two main phases: analyzing the heart’s rhythm and administering electrical shocks.

    It’s similar to the cardioversion process because it also “reverses” the heart’s rhythm. However, note that this one is more intense and most effective if applied within minutes.

    Also, remember that defibrillation doesn’t just include an AED. There are other devices, but the difference between AED and IDC or WDC is that the automated external defibrillator is applied externally and is removable.

    AED defibrillation is the most frequent life-saving technique for treating cardiac arrest or severe arrhythmia patients. However, the AED defibrillation process can give its best results when combined with the CPR procedure