Knowing how to use a defibrillator could save someone’s life. While less than 1 in 10 people survive a cardiac arrest outside of hospital, defibrillation within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can increase their chances of survival to 70%.
Read on to find out how to use a defibrillator correctly and when it’s needed. Plus, learn where to buy a defibrillator for your organisation.
When should you use a defibrillator?
A defibrillator is a device that uses electricity to restart the heart or bring it back into normal rhythm.
You should use a defibrillator when someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest.
The signs of sudden cardiac arrest include:
- Collapsing and falling to the ground
- Not responding or unconscious
- Not breathing or having difficulty breathing
- No pulse
If you notice a person experiencing these symptoms, call 000 immediately and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until a defibrillator arrives on the scene. The sooner you can use a defibrillator, the better.
What is cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is when a person’s heart suddenly stops beating due to irregular electrical activity in the ventricular muscle of the heart. This type of electrical irregularity is called ventricular fibrillation.
When ventricular fibrillation occurs, the heart is no longer able to effectively pump blood to the body’s essential organs. Defibrillation can help restart the heart and restore normal heart rhythms, but it must be done quickly. Every minute without defibrillation decreases the chances of survival.
Sudden cardiac arrest is life threatening if not treated immediately. Around 30,000 people experience a cardiac arrest every year in Australia. If it occurs outside of a hospital, survival chances are around 1 in 10.
How to use a defibrillator
There are several different types of defibrillators which can be used in different settings. Check out our guide ‘How does a defibrillator work?‘ to find out more about how the different types of defibrillators are used to save lives.
The most common type of defibrillator used for first aid emergencies in public places is the automated external defibrillator (AED). Leading AED brands in Australia include Heartsine, Lifepak and Zoll defibrillator.
How to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
Anyone can use an AED, not just medical professionals. An AED gives you clear verbal instructions to guide you through what to do.
If you notice the signs of a cardiac emergency, follow the steps below:
Step 1. Call 000
If you see someone collapse, have trouble breathing or become unresponsive, you should call 000 for emergency medical assistance.
Step 2. Start CPR and send someone to get an AED
Start chest compressions and rescue breaths as soon as possible and send someone else to get an AED. AEDs are located in most public places, such as schools, gyms, workplaces, shopping centres and libraries.
Step 3. Pull the lever or press ON
Pull the lever or press the ON button to turn the defibrillator on. You will begin to hear voice prompts telling you what to do.
Chest compressions should continue while the AED is being prepared.
Step 4. Remove clothing from the chest
Remove clothing and jewellery from the person’s chest, using scissors or shaving thick hair if necessary.
If the person’s skin is wet, pat it dry with a towel or piece of clothing.
Step 5. Attach adhesive pads
The pads should be attached to the person’s chest by peeling off the protector and pressing down firmly. Follow the instructions and the diagram on the front of the pads to position them correctly.
Step 6. Wait while the defibrillator analyses the person’s heart rhythm
Do not touch the person while the defibrillator analyses their heart rhythm. The words ‘ANALYSING’ will appear on the defibrillator while this happens.
Step 7. Stand back and press the orange button to deliver a shock
If the person requires an electric shock, the defibrillator will tell you. If instructed, stand back and make sure no one is touching the person. Then press the orange shock button to deliver the electrical shock.
Step 8. Follow prompts until ambulance arrives
Following the shock, you may be advised by the defibrillator to continue with CPR or to deliver another shock. Follow the instructions until the ambulance arrives.
If someone else is present, ask them to write down the time and how many shocks were delivered so you can pass this information to the ambulance officers.
When should you not use a defibrillator?
You should not use a defibrillator if:
- The person is conscious and breathing normally.
- The defibrillator is broken or has faulty parts.
- The casualty is a child under 8 years or under 25kg and you don’t have child-specific electrode pads.
Defibrillators will not deliver a shock to a person unless they need it. If you are unsure whether or not to use an AED, it’s better to set it up as it could save their life. The AED will analyse the person’s heart rhythm and notify you if a shock should be applied.
Defibrillators and pacemakers
You can use a defibrillator on someone that has a pacemaker, but you should avoid placing the adhesive pads directly over the pacemaker location.
You can usually identify where a pacemaker is by lumps or scars near the person’s collarbone. Follow the instructions from the AED and ambulance officers.
Can you use a defibrillator on a child?
Defibrillators can be used on children who are experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
If the child is under 8 years old or under 25kg, child electrode pads should be used. If these are not available, do not use the defibrillator. Wait for the ambulance to arrive.
Where can you find the nearest AED?
AEDs are located in most public spaces, including schools, shopping centres, community centres, sporting clubs, workplaces and public libraries. AEDs may also be included in trauma kits, for example this Australian ranger’s kit.
AEDs should be clearly signed and stored appropriately. Signage usually features a green background with the words AED and/or a heart symbol.
St John Ambulance Australia has an app called Resuscitate which can help you find the nearest defibrillator based on your location.
Buying a defibrillator in Australia
Whether you’re a business owner, property manager or community leader, buying a defibrillator for your organisation is a smart move. Training staff on how to use a defibrillator is also highly recommended.
Cardiac arrest is one of Australia’s biggest killers and survival rates are below 5% without early defibrillation. However, access to defibrillation within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can increase a person’s chances of survival to 70%.
If you are interested in buying a defibrillator for your business or organisation, it’s important to buy from a supplier that is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
At LFA First Response, we offer excellent wholesale prices and turn around times on defibrillation products and first aid supplies. Place an order today or call our friendly customer service team on 1800 681 544 to discuss your needs.