What is the Difference Between a Semi-Automatic Defibrillator and a Fully-Automatic Defibrillator?

AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) come in two main types – semi-automatic (SAED) and fully-automatic (FAED). Here’s a quick guide on the differences between these two types of AED and how to choose the right defibrillator for your needs.

The Semi-Automatic Defibrillator (SAED)

SAEDs offer the user a little more control and require you to take a bit more action when treating a sudden cardiac arrest. Specifically, they require you to check that no one is in physical contact with the patient, and then to push the button to supply the shock when it is flashing.

Many people prefer the SAED because it allows this additional level of control and safety, so you can make sure that no one but the patient gets shocked. This is because although the AED will not supply a shock unless the correct heart rhythm is detected, it cannot tell if someone else is in contact with the patient it is attached to. While the shock will help the patient, it is reduced in effectiveness when it leaks to another person as well as being an unpleasant experience.

This type of AED will still automatically monitor the heart rhythm and decide when a shock is necessary, including checking heart rhythm to see if additional shocks are needed.

The Fully-Automatic Defibrillator (FAED)

The fully-automatic defibrillator is exactly that – a fully automatic device. Once the electrode pads are in place, the FAED takes over – monitoring and analysing the patient’s heart rhythm. When the correct heart rhythm is detected, it will automatically send a shock through to their heart, including sending repeat shocks if the first one doesn’t work.

This doesn’t put the people tending to the patient at risk, however. The FAED will use voice prompts throughout the process, including instructing you on how to perform bystander CPR. When it determines a shock is necessary, it will warn you using the voice prompts and countdown to when the shock will be applied. It will then supply the shock and inform you when you can start bystander CPR again. As long as you and those around you listen to the clear voice prompts, no one is at risk of a shock.

Many people prefer the FAED because it handles everything for you, which is ideal if you don’t have First Aid training or don’t want the additional pressure of supplying the electric shock during an emergency situation. Emergencies like SCAs are often very frightening and stressful, and having an FAED reduces the responsibilities and fears often associated with using a defibrillator or treating someone in cardiac arrest. Your only responsibility is to place the electrode pads correctly and keep everyone clear when the countdown to the shock occurs.

Important Things to Remember About AEDs

People often feel wary of AEDs and the responsibility that treating a person with SCA, but it can help to remember that no AED of any kind will shock a person who is not in cardiac arrest. You cannot shock someone by mistake. Even if you mistake a heart attack (no shock should be applied) for a SCA, the defibrillator will simply monitor the person’s heart rhythm and not apply the shock unless an SCA occurs (which can happen in heart attacks).

In addition, while different makes and models of AEDs will have slightly different features, all of them will offer clear instructions on how to operate them while in use, even if you lose the manual. Many use a combination of voice prompts as well as text prompts and light indicators, so it is always very clear exactly what you need to do in an emergency. This is what makes AEDs so invaluable – that you need no training to save a life.

How to Choose Between an SAED and FAED

This really comes down to two things – cost and users. In terms of cost, a SAED can often be more expensive than an FAED, but the difference is fairly minimal.

In terms of users, it is important to consider the people you expect to be the most likely users of the AED, especially in terms of how they are able to cope under pressure. As we mentioned, an SCA can be a frightening and stressful emergency, and users of an SAED will need to be able to keep panic at bay and press that shock button once people are clear of the patient.

If you are concerned that you or others may hesitate at this critical moment, an FAED will be a better choice, as it operates automatically even if a rescuer freezes in panic. Remember, an electric shock to the heart is the ONLY way to treat someone with SCA and save their life – bystander CPR or any other treatment alone will not be enough. They need this shock within 2 minutes of experiencing SCA, so you need to feel confident enough and be equipped to act quickly.

AEDs and AED Training in Australia

The DefibsPlus team are leading suppliers of AEDs, AED parts and batteries, and AED storage solutions in Australia. Our passion is empowering business, schools and families to save lives, which is why we offer bystander CPR trainingwith the unit you purchase. This will give you the confidence to act quickly and decisively in an emergency. Contact us today for more information. Together, we can save lives!