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Defibrillator Position and Placement: How to Get it Right

Defibrillator Position and Placement: How to Get it Right

Defibrillator Position and Placement: How to Get it Right

One of the main steps in using an AED is putting the defibrillator pads in the right places on the body to administer a shock.

Defibrillation works by de-polarising the cardiac muscle to help the heart’s natural rhythm start up again. The correct placement of defibrillator pads is important to ensure as much of the electrical current passes through the heart as possible. Incorrect placement decreases the chance of de-polarisation as less of the current reaches the critical mass of the heart.

When a member of the public has to use an AED to help someone in cardiac arrest, they don’t need to worry too much about finding the correct placement of the pads. An AED will provide instructions on placement and is capable of detecting whether the pads are in the right place or not. 

AED pads

But when attending to someone in cardiac arrest, every second counts. Earlier defibrillation increases survival rates, so knowing where to put a defibrillator on the chest will help you give someone else a better chance of resuscitation.

Where on the chest should the defibrillator pads be applied?

Safety during defibrillation is important for the person giving assistance as well as the patient. Find out exactly where to place defibrillator pads on adults, children, and in other circumstances in this article. If you want to know about the other steps to using a defibrillator to help someone, read out articles:

AED placement - adult

Two pads will need to be placed on the chest of the person. The first is placed on the right-hand side of the chest below the collar bone. The second is placed on the left-hand side, below the armpit.

The AED you use will indicate which pad is the first and second. You may need to remove the backing from the pads to expose the sticky side where the pads can adhere to the skin.

In order for the defibrillator pads to administer a shock, they need to have full contact with the skin. This means if the person has a very hairy chest it may be difficult to establish good contact and the chest hair might need to be removed.

If the person has a very hairy chest, shave away an area if you can so that the pads can properly adhere to the skin. If you can’t remove hair then try to press down very firmly and make sure there is as much contact with the skin as possible.

The AED is going to produce an electrical current, so it’s important to make sure the area for the pad placement is completely dry. You should also take care to make sure the person isn’t laying in water and, if they are, remove them completely and dry them off before you start to use the defibrillator. 

Defibrillator Pad Placement: Child

AED placement - child

Children over eight years old or who weigh more than 25kg should be treated like adults when it comes to pad placement, with the first on the right side of the chest and the second on the left below the armpit. 

If the child is under eight or weighs less than 25kg, one pad should be placed on the chest and the other should be placed on the back. This is to prevent the pads from touching each other. An AED like our iPAD SP1 Semi-Automatic Defibrillator has an infant mode that can be activated if the person needing attention is a child.

Positioning Defibrillator Pads: Pacemakers

A pacemaker shouldn’t be affected by the use of a defibrillator. Pacemakers are found on the left-hand side of the chest. When giving someone medical attention for cardiac arrest, CPR compressions are given in the centre of the chest, and the first defibrillator pad is positioned on the right-hand side of the chest.

Although it’s unlikely that a defibrillator pad will go over the top of a pacemaker it shouldn’t happen. Feel the person’s chest for a pacemaker which will feel like a hard lump of about 4” size. Make sure if you do feel one not to place a pad so that it is in any way covering a pacemaker.

Defibrillator Positioning on a Woman

Performing CPR and using an AED on a woman is the same as on a man. When laying on their back, a woman’s breasts will fall to the side and be out of the way when performing compressions and attaching defibrillator pads.

Removing a bra is sometimes necessary to ensure you get the placement of defibrillator pads right. There is also the risk of a bra’s underwire coming into contact with the electrical charge. 

You should never worry about whether exposing a person’s chest is inappropriate when they have gone into cardiac arrest and you need to help them. Giving someone medical attention is more important. Make sure you have someone with you to monitor what you do if you can and if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Placement of a Defibrillator with Nipple Piercings

Do nipple piercings affect defibrillators? Nipple piercings won’t stop and AED from working. With normal pad placement, you shouldn’t have a problem avoiding a nipple piercing. 

Contact between metal jewellery and an AED pad will result in a burn to the skin as the patient receives an electric shock. This will also cause a small portion of the current to go through the jewellery as opposed to the heart, making the defibrillator less effective. Making contact with a piercing should be avoided if possible but if not, still go ahead with the defibrillation.

Public Defibrillator Accessibility

Quick access to a defibrillator is the most important thing when someone needs medical attention for cardiac arrest. Having defibrillators installed in places where people work, live, and visit regularly like shopping centres and gyms is the most responsible thing business owners can do to help in the event of cardiac arrest.

Find out where your nearest defibrillators are in our blog. If you own or run a business and think you need a defibrillator we answer all your questions in our article about workplace defibrillators.

Defibrillator Position and Placement: How to Get it Right

Watch our video below on defibrillator position and placement.

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