The heart is one of the most important organs of the human body. Heart rhythm problems can lead to life threatening situations, including sudden cardiac arrest. Knowing how a defibrillator works could save a life.
In this article, we discuss:
- How does a defibrillator work?
- What are the different types of defibrillators?
- When should you use a defibrillator?
- Where to get defibrillator supplies in Australia?
What is a defibrillator?
A defibrillator is a device that is used to bring the heart beat back to a normal rhythm by sending an electric shock to the heart muscle. In fact, a defibrillator stops the heart when it is going crazy and not pumping blood (fibrillating) and allows its natural pace-maker to take over again.
Defibrillators can be used when someone has abnormal heart rhythms such as a heartbeat that is too slow, too fast or uneven.
How does a defibrillator work?
Defibrillators use electrical signals to monitor the heart for abnormal heart rhythms. If the heart rate has an irregular pattern, or is too fast or too slow, the defibrillator will send an electrical shock to help restore normal heart rhythm.
There are several different types of defibrillators which each work in different ways.
What are the different types of defibrillators?
The 4 types of defibrillators are:
- Automated External Defibrillators
- Manual External Defibrillators
- Implanted Cardioverter Defibrillators
- Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillators
Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are light weight, portable defibrillators that are designed to be used by anyone in an emergency, not just medical professionals.
AEDs, such as the Zoll AED defibrillator, are programmed with clear step by step verbal instructions to guide someone how to use the device properly.
To use an AED, adhesive pads called electrodes are attached to the chest of a person who is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The electrodes measure and send information about the person’s heart rhythm to a computer which is built into the AED.
The computer analyses the data to determine if an electric shock should be delivered. If an electric shock is needed, it is delivered via the electrodes.
Manual External Defibrillator
Manual defibrillators are advanced devices in which the energy delivered to the patient can be manually set by a professional responder such as an emergency room nurse, emergency medical technician or cardiologist.
When used by an experienced person, a manual defibrillator can deliver a faster and more precise shock to the patient than an AED.
Some manual external defibrillators have functions that AEDs do not have. For example, the pacing function allows the manual defibrillator to send pulses of electrical energy to help stimulate heart contractions.
In some circumstances, a person who is receiving defibrillation from an AED may be switched to a manual defibrillator when emergency help arrives.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
Implantable defibrillators are put inside a person’s chest or abdomen through surgery. They are used to monitor for life-threatening arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).
Life-threatening arrhythmias may stop blood from getting from the heart to the rest of the body or they may cause the heart to stop completely.
An ICD monitors cardiac rhythm and if required, sends a small electric shock to the heart muscle to restore a normal heartbeat. If the small electric signals do not restore a normal heartbeat, the ICD will send higher energy shocks.
Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD)
Wearable cardioverter defibrillators (WCDs) are similar to ICDs in that they can deliver both small and high energy shocks to the heart. However, instead of being surgically placed inside the person’s chest, WCDs are worn on a belt around the chest, under the person’s clothes.
Sensors are attached to the person’s skin and are connected by wires to the central WCD device. The sensors monitor the person’s heart rate for arrhythmia. If an abnormal rhythm is detected, the WCD will notify the person, who can turn off the alert if a shock isn’t required.
If the alert isn’t turned off, the WCD will deliver an electrical shock to return the heart to a normal rhythm and may send repeated shocks if required.
When should you use a defibrillator?
An AED should be used when someone is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. This will mean the person is unresponsive and not breathing normally. If the victim is breathing you should not apply a defibrillator. AEDs can be used on adults and children over 1-year-old. Some AEDs have been especially designed for children.
If an AED is not immediately available, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be used until an AED is made available.
Signs someone is experiencing cardiac arrest:
- Fainting or collapsing
- No pulse
- Abnormal breathing
- Loss of consciousness
Wearable and implantable cardioverter defibrillators may be recommended by a doctor to help treat arrhythmia or to prevent sudden cardiac arrest. They can be used in both children and adults.
There are many conditions that can lead to arrhythmia, including:
- Surviving a cardiac arrest
- Surviving a heart attack
- Congenital heart disease
- Some neuromuscular disorders
- Cardiac sarcoidosis
- Abnormally slow heart rate
Get equipped with defibrillators from LFA First Response
Knowing how a defibrillator works could save someone’s life in an emergency.
Medical professionals should be equipped and prepared with top quality defibrillation devices to deal with life-threatening circumstances. In addition, AEDs should be readily available and easily accessible to community members in public spaces.
Get in touch with our friendly team today to discuss your needs.