Why and when is an AED useful?

What You Need to Know About Sudden Cardiac Arrest and AEDs.

An Automated External Defibrillator device, also commonly known as an AED, is used to check the heart’s rhythm and can normalize it through administering a shock. It is very helpful in treating Sudden Cardiac Arrests (SCA), a condition in which the heart stops beating all of a sudden and the blood being supplied to the brain and body parts comes to a halt. It needs to be treated within minutes; otherwise, it may result in death.  

According to the American Red Cross, if training and access to AEDs is improved, about 50,000 more lives can be saved every year. Sudden Cardiac Arrests are one of the main reasons of death in America, with an estimated 350,000 people at the risk of suffering from a SCA this year alone. This condition is not limited to any age group, place or situation; it can happen to any individual and at anytime.


The rhythm and rate of the heartbeat is controlled by a natural electrical system. The simple process of contraction and pumping blood is a result of every electrical signal passing from the top of the heart to the bottom. When this system of electrical signals is disturbed, it results in abnormal or irregular heartbeat. This condition is called Arrhythmias and it may cause heartbeats that are too fast, too slow or irregular in rhythm. It is the ones which are irregular that cause Sudden Cardiac Arrests.

Kinds of Arrhythmias

There are various kinds of Arrhythmias which result in one having SCAs. They include:

Ventricular Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation is the most common type of Arrhythmia which involves the ventricles of the heart. The lower chamber of the heart, where the electrical signal passes to, beats abnormally and the ventricles start quivering rapidly in an uneven pattern.

Ventricular Tachycardia

Another Arrhythmia condition is that of ventricular tachycardia in which the ventricles beat regularly but in a very fast rhythm. This state lasts at least for a few seconds but may extend to a few minutes too.

How Does AED Work for Arrhythmias?

Since in these conditions the heart beats in an irregular rhythm, AED can be used to normalize the rhythm of the heartbeat. The electrical shock from the device helps to bring the abnormality of the condition to a normal and stable pattern. They are portable, operate on a battery and require just the basic training to be handled. It is very easy to use them and each unit is provided with detailed instructions to further assist the operator. The device also gives audio commands and guides the user on how and when to give the shock.

They are placed in places where public movement is very high; for instance, shopping malls, offices, airports, hotels, community halls, convention centers, airplanes, schools, colleges, etc. All these places have a unit available in case of emergency. You can also keep a unit at home. This will help you assist a person having a SCA while the help arrives. Majority of the people, as many as 95%, die within the first five minutes of having a SCA. Prompt help with an AED can help save a life just in time for medical help to arrive.