Safety During Defibrillation with an AED
An AED delivers an electrical current to the heart in order to help its natural pacemaker start back up and begin the sinus rhythm (the normal heartbeat) when someone is in cardiac arrest. AED’s are usually extremely safe to use, having been designed to be handled by an untrained person in a stressful situation.
But there are a few important safety considerations when using a defibrillator, and knowing about these beforehand will assist significantly in a crisis situation where every second matters. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common questions to do with safety during defibrillation, as well as some defibrillator maintenance advice.
What are the chances of survival when you use a defibrillator? Find out in our blog.
Defibrillation Safety FAQs
Can you accidentally shock someone with a defibrillator?
Shocking someone with an AED if they aren’t in cardiac arrest is dangerous. The only way this can happen is if you are making contact with the person being defibrillated or if you are making contact with water that the person is also touching.
An AED is designed to reduce the likelihood that anyone is touching the patient if and when a shock needs to be administered.
For example, the iPAD SP1 Semi-Automatic comes with adherent pads that can be stuck to the chest of the patient in the correct position and will instruct the user when to press a button to deliver a shock. The device will warn the user and anyone else nearby to stand back before the shock is administered. This ensures that no one needs to be close by or in contact when the current is passing through the patient’s body.
What happens if you get shocked by a defibrillator?
A shock from an AED, if you are awake, will be painful. It has been said to feel like being kicked in the chest by a horse.
A 2020 study published by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine discussed the effects of accidental AED shock in caregivers. Depending on the severity of exposure, the effects of accidental shock vary from an imperceptible shock detected by the nervous system but not affecting any part of the body to a burn on the skin.
The more severe effect of accidental shock is ventricular fibrillation (causing an irregular heartbeat). The study found that using nitrile gloves did not prevent the shocks from happening, although gloves should be worn by carers when providing defibrillation regardless.
It’s unlikely that any serious injury will occur if you have been unintentionally shocked by a defibrillator. But, if you or anyone has been shocked you should inform the medical staff that attend the scene when they arrive. They may want you to be assessed for non-visible injury.
Can you defibrillate a wet person?
Can you use a defibrillator on someone who is wet? As an AED uses an electrical current it’s dangerous to use around water. Usually, an AED comes with a small towel to dry off the person’s chest. This is not only to ensure the sticky pads can be fully attached but to make sure no water is present. The electrical current generated by the AED will choose the least resistant pathway so if it comes into contact with water it will pass through that as opposed to the heart muscle.
If the patient lies in a body of water the electrical current could also pass through this and anyone else who happens to be standing in it. It is vital that the patient is moved out of any water completely and their chest dried off before proceeding.
Defibrillation: Fire and Explosives
The potential for fire and explosions should always be considered when using a defibrillator. The fact that a defibrillator produces an electrical shock means there is the potential for a spark.
It’s unlikely that you will find yourself in a potentially explosive environment but you should check your surroundings for risks. For example, you should move the patient away if you are at a petrol station, near any oxygen tanks, or near an open flame.
Can you defibrillate a child?
Children down to the age of one year can be defibrillated. If the child is over eight years old and weighs more than 25kg, they should be treated as an adult when being defibrillated.
When to use pediatric defibrillation paddles:
Children younger or lighter should be treated in a different way. Most AEDs can be switched to a ‘child-mode’ like the iPAD SP1 Semi-Automatic Defibrillator which reduces the intensity of the electrical current. When placing the pads on a child under eight or lighter than 25kg, place the first pad in the centre of the chest and the second in the centre of the back ‘facing’ the first.
Can you defibrillate a pregnant person?
Using an AED on a pregnant person is completely safe and they can be treated as a normal adult when using the defibrillator. An AED will not harm the fetus inside the body.
If defibrillation is successful and the person regains consciousness they should be put into the recovery position on their left side to assist with blood flow to the heart and fetus.
Defibrillator Maintenance Requirements
If you own a business or manage a facility where people spend any time, installing a defibrillator is one of the most responsible and worthwhile things you can do. But installing your AED isn’t enough, it needs to be regularly checked to make sure it’s in full working order and ready to go.
Install an AED on a specially designed wall bracket like the iPAD AED Wall Bracket or Indoor Cabinet so that it can be spotted easily and accessed in seconds but so that it stays safe and out of the way of any hazards.
Testing an AED
Most AEDs will self-test at regular intervals and present a warning sign if anything is wrong with them. How to test a defibrillator will vary depending on which device you use. The iPAD SP1 performs a self-test whenever new batteries are installed and then turns off after the test is complete.
The machine will then turn itself on to perform daily, weekly, and monthly self-tests. A battery self-test can be performed by removing and then reinstalling the batteries. The LCD status screen on the machine will show the status of the device, battery, and pads to let you know if anything has failed the self-test.
Routine AED Checks
While your AED will perform self-tests it’s important that a member of staff checks the device regularly to see if any errors or failures have been reported.
Perform a test on the iPAD SP1 Defibrillator by removing and reinstalling the battery. This test takes around 20 minutes and so should never be performed before using the device when someone is in cardiac arrest. Following the test, the LCD screen will display an O if no errors are found, and an X if an error is found. The device then prompts the user to press ‘i-’ to be told what the error is.
After a defibrillator has been used a routine check should be carried out before it is returned to its wall bracket or cabinet.
1. Check the device for any signs of damage, if there are signs of damage contact the manufacturer’s customer service department.
2. Check for dirt or contamination. If there are signs of contamination the device should be thoroughly cleaned.
3. Conduct a test of the device act accordingly depending on the results. Either the device will be ready to be used again or will need to be looked at if any errors or failures are shown.
4. Dispose of the used pads and replace a new pair of pads into the pads pouch storage compartment.
5. Replace the battery if needed.
6. Return the device to its wall bracket or cabinet.
Using a defibrillator checklist like the one below ensures that regular checks are made that the device and its equipment are all present and in good working order. Keep a record like this one in your office or in a safe place.
How long does the battery last in a defibrillator?
The lifetime of the battery in your AED depends on the make, model, how long it stays on, and how much it is used. The replacement battery for the iPAD SP1 fully or semi-automatic defibrillator has a standby lifetime of five years, covered by a four-year warranty. It is estimated to have the capacity for a minimum of 200 shocks at 150 joules.
How many times can you use a defibrillator?
The iPAD SP defibrillator can be used indefinitely as long as the batteries are in good working order and the pads are replaced after each use. The device has a warranty of five years. Other models may be similar but it’s important to check with the manufacturer of your model.
Do you need to get an AED installed in a building you own or operate? Find out in our article Workplace Defibrillators: Everything You Need to Know.
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