Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a machine that is used to treat cardiac arrest, a life-threatening condition where the heart suddenly stops beating properly. By sending an electric shock to the heart of a person in cardiac arrest, the AED restores a normal heart rhythm. AEDs are designed for use by laypersons with very little training; check out your device’s user manual for instructions on how to use your specific AED.
AED machines use advanced algorithms and offer lifesaving therapy, they are actually built with only a few key components. The main AED parts are:
Electrode pads: Electrode pads are the sticky pads that are applied to the patient’s chest. The electrode pads are what reads the patient’s heart rhythm. If a shock is determined to be necessary by the AED’s processor, then the shock travels between the pads and through the patient’s heart.
Battery: The battery is used to charge the AED’s capacitor so that it has enough energy to deliver a life-saving shock. The battery also plays an important role in running self-tests and AED diagnostics to make sure that the AED is functioning properly.
Capacitor: The capacitor stores and releases energy. Capacitors are very common electrical components and they come in different sizes or capacities. For AEDs, the capacitor has to be large enough to store enough energy, and then release it all at once, to save a patient’s life.
Processor: The processor is the brains behind the AED. The processor is used to analyze the patient’s rhythm to determine whether or not the patient is in a shockable rhythm
AEDs are capable of automatically detecting two forms of cardiac arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms: ventricular fibrillation and pulseless ventricular tachycardia. If either of these rhythms are detected by the AED, the device delivers a controlled electric shock to the victim. Most people are familiar with in-hospital defibrillators or those used by emergency medical services that are part of advanced life support (ALS) units. AEDs are different because they are “automated” and completely take the guesswork out of determining whether or not someone needs a shock. AED operators do not need to read and interpret a patient’s ECG which depicts the heart rhythm. The AED performs the heart rhythm analysis for them.
Since AED machines are becoming increasingly present in public settings, especially where there is a lot of human traffic, AEDs can often be used immediately when a person goes into cardiac arrest instead of having to wait for the paramedics or police to administer the life-saving treatment.