If many Americans are not very confident in performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), much more are unfamiliar with the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) in emergency situations.
When witnessing a heart attack, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends four key steps to help a victim survive. These include, in sequence:
- A call to 911 for emergency medical services
- Early provision of CPR
- Immediate defibrillation with an AED
- Quick access to advanced medical care.
One is not always sure how quick one can get a response from emergency medical personnel, and it may take several minutes for paramedics to arrive at the scene. During this time the odds of surviving a cardiac arrest can get worse with each passing minute.
Providing early CPR is an important part of saving the lives of people suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. CPR helps to circulate oxygenated blood to the vital organs, particularly the brain. However, CPR alone may not be able to reverse life threatening cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm).
What are AEDs?
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs ) are a relatively new technique of resuscitation that can recognize and treat irregular heart rhythms. These devices are now available in airports, malls, sports arenas, offices and other public places around the country, but because public AEDs are relatively new, it is not surprising that only a few people know how to use one compared to those who know how to deliver CPR. This suggests the need for AED training.
AEDs are relatively easy to use. They are computerized medical devices that can check a person’s heart rhythm and automatically analyzes and determines whether or not to shock the victim’s heart. It can advise the rescuer, using voice prompts, lights and text messages what steps to take to reverse abnormal heart rhythms.
AEDs are very accurate and user-friendly devices, and with a few hours of AED training, anyone can learn to operate them safely. After the device is attached and delivers a shock, it will prompt the rescuer to continue CPR while the AED continues to evaluate the victim’s heart rhythm.
Anyone who wants to use an AED must know how to recognize the signs of a sudden cardiac arrest, when to call the emergency medical services (EMS) system, and how to perform CPR. It is also important for AED operators to receive formal training so that they become familiar with the device and to successfully operate it during an emergency. AED Training also teaches the rescuer how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
The AHA strongly encourages that any community, business or facility that wants to purchase an AED must be part of a defibrillation program in which:
• They notify the local EMS office of their acquisition of an AED,
• A licensed physician or other medical authority provides medical ensures maintenance and quality control of the device, and
• Persons operating the AED are trained both in CPR and how to use an AED.
AED Programs Q & A. AHA.
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