According to St John Ambulance, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of death in Australia – both for adults and children. Each year, around 20,000 people die from SCA; and this number can be significant reduced by having automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) accessible in apartment buildings, workplaces, shopping centres, hotels and public spaces. Here’s a useful guide to AEDs and how you can help save a life.
What is an AED Machine?
An AED is a type of defibrillator that is designed for use by anyone – even people without any medical training. That’s because many of the more complex processes in a defibrillator have been automated, so all you have to do is follow audio instructions as prompted by the device. In fully automatic defibrillators, the machine will not only monitor the patient’s heart rhythm, it will also supply the shock or shocks automatically as required, and instruct you on how to perform bystander CPR.
These portable, lightweight devices are the only way to restore a regular heartbeat in the event of an SCA. They are safe to use on adults and children too. Leading AED providers will also supply AED training to you and your team to help you respond quickly and confidently in the event of an SCA.
What is a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
A sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is not a heart attack or stroke. It is an event where the electrical impulse that instructs the heart to beat at a regular rhythm is interrupted or otherwise goes wrong. This puts the heart into an arrhythmia – a kind of vibration rather than a steady beat.
The only way to correct this is to apply a specific electrical shock that jolts the heart hard enough to reset it and restore normal rhythm. Without this, a person can quickly experience organ damage and die from lack of oxygen. In fact, each minute that passes without that shock from an AED reduces survival by 10%.
There is no single known cause for SCA, and it can happen to anyone at any time.
What Does SCA Look Like?
SCA does not look like a heart attack. Instead, a victim of SCA will faint and fall unconscious very suddenly. They will be unresponsive and unable to talk. If you suspect an SCA, you should:
- Confirm the person is unconscious and unresponsive – shout at them or shake them gently to see if they wake up. If not, call emergency services immediately.
- Check their breathing and pulse. If they are not breathing and you cannot feel a pulse or hear a heartbeat, they are experiencing SCA.
- Call for an AED and start bystander CPR (chest compressions) to keep the oxygenated blood in their system circulating.
How Does an AED Work?
An AED consists of a small computer, a battery pack and adhesive electrode pads that are connected to the unit by wires. When using an AED, you attach the adhesive pads to the patient’s chest (one on the right side of the chest below the collarbone, one on the left side lower down). The pads will pick up the patient’s heart rhythm and send this information to the computer.
The computer analyses this information and determines if a shock is needed. You will then hear a voice prompt warning (do not touch the patient at all) and the shock will be applied. The pads will continue to check the heart rhythm to see if it has been restored or whether a second shock is needed.
This process of monitoring the heart rhythm and applying shocks as needed will continue until emergency services arrive. They will often request the information off the computer to help monitor the patient further.
Where Can I Find an AED?
Because an AED is the only way to restart a heart and save a life in the event of SCA, it is important that it’s easy to get your hands on one should an emergency situation occur. If an SCA happens in a public space or a place of work, you should be able to get an AED from their onsite First Aid kit. All gyms, schools, libraries, airports, shopping centres and workplaces should have one onsite.
You can also purchase an in-home AED, and this is especially recommended for Body Corporates and apartment buildings, as well as families with a history of SCA or heart issues.
AEDs and AED Training in Melbourne
For more information on our AEDs, AED parts and defibrillator training, please contact our team today.