What actually is an AED?

You know the headlines in the media when a commercial airliner crashes and there are hundreds of deaths? Now what if there were so many victims to mourn, not sometimes, but every day? Sound like a lot? Indeed, it is. A full plane is roughly equivalent to the number of people who die of sudden cardiac death every day. And that is in Germany alone.

What actually is 'sudden cardiac death'?

Sudden cardiac death is defined as an unexpected cardiovascular failure that leads to the death of the affected person if no countermeasures are taken.

Who can be affected?

Basically, any person of any age can be equally affected. A higher statistical risk is found with increasing age and with pre-existing cardiac diseases. But young and so far completely healthy people can also be among the victims, unfortunately even children and teenagers.

Are many people affected by this?

In Germany alone, about 100,000 people die of sudden cardiac death every year. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher.

What are the causes?

The human heart consists of many individual muscle cells. Normally, these muscle cells work well coordinated with each other and thus pump blood through the human body. In sudden cardiac death, this coordination is severely disrupted. Each heart muscle cell does what it wants, but none does what it's supposed to do. As a result, the heart can no longer pump blood through the body and the circulation stops. Without immediate countermeasures, this condition results in death after a few minutes.

How can you protect yourself from this?

The nasty and insidious thing about sudden cardiac death is that it can strike completely unexpectedly. In both young and old people, those with pre-existing conditions, as well as the completely healthy. Unfortunately, there is no protection against sudden cardiac death as such.

Can't anything be done?

Oh yes, indeed you can. The affected person must receive immediate life-saving measures to ensure their survival. They need cardiopulmonary resuscitation, assisted by an automated external defibrillator, or AED. It is of utmost importance as a preventive measure that as many people as possible are educated and trained in first aid measures. In addition, an automated external defibrillator, an AED, should be available everywhere, if possible.

Why is the AED so important?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can bridge the time until the ambulance or emergency physician arrives, if it is performed well. However, it cannot interrupt the ventricular fibrillation of the heart and thus cannot fight the actual causes. Ventricular fibrillation can only be stopped with the help of a strong electrical impulse. This impulse – referred to as defibrillation – is administered by the AED.

What are the symptoms of the affected person?

The affected person suddenly loses consciousness and collapses. As a rule, we find the affected person in a lying position on the floor a without pulse and not breathing. They will not react to being spoken to or to pain stimuli.

What to do?

The top priority is to call emergency services as quickly as possible. In Germany, the ambulance and emergency physician are alerted by dialling 112. What you need to report to the control centre are the emergency keywords 'sudden cardiac death' and 'unconscious person without a pulse'.

What needs to happen next?

Promptly start with the life-saving immediate measures, such as those you learned during a first aid course or emergency training. This includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation through cardiac massage as well as rescue breathing, if you are confident enough to do so.

What about the AED?

If an AED is available, it should be urgently used. Only the combination of efficient cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation using an AED can significantly increase the person's chances of survival.

Is the AED really that important?

Studies have examined three different scenarios of how first aiders behave in the event of sudden cardiac death:

  • If the first aiders only call an ambulance and do nothing else, the chances of survival of the victim are at about 2-5%.
  • If the first aiders call an ambulance and immediately begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the victim's chances of survival increase to about 10-20%
  • If the first aiders also use an AED as quickly as possible, the victim's chances increase to 70-80%.

Now please decide for yourself whether an AED might be important and useful.

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When should an AED be used?

There are clear priorities in the care of the affected person:

  1. Call emergency services
  2. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  3. Use of an AED

Only after the first two have been completed should an AED be used. However, do not interrupt the measures under any circumstances to fetch an AED yourself. If you are alone, focus on CPR only. Always have another person bring the AED to you while you are performing immediate life-saving measures.

How to use an AED?

The HeartSave series AEDs have been designed to be completely intuitive for a layperson to use without prior knowledge. As soon as the cover is opened, the HeartSave series AEDs switch on automatically. After a brief self-test, the AEDs guide you safely through the operation of the device and complete cardiopulmonary resuscitation with brief and concise voice instructions. At the same time, the AEDs can adapt individually to your working speed. This way, relevant voice instructions are repeated several times if you do not follow them directly. If you are working faster than the instructions, the AED can skip individual prompts to save valuable time in caring for the patient.

Is there anything I can do wrong?

No, not really. The HeartSave series AEDs are self-explanatory and safe to use.

What if I deliver a shock and the person doesn't need it?

That's exactly what cannot happen in the first place. With the HeartSave series AEDs, the need for a shock is determined solely by the AED. Only if the AED identifies the need for defibrillation when analysing the patient's ECG will the necessary energy be charged and made available. If the AED decides that defibrillation is not required, no energy is charged and the shock button is not released. The first aider cannot – even if they wanted to – harm the victim with the AED.

Who is entitled to use an AED?

Everyone. Since the user can do absolutely nothing wrong with an AED, it may be used by any person who is confident to do so.

Are there many AEDs available already?

Fortunately, awareness of sudden cardiac death has grown tremendously over many years. More and more AEDs have been and are being made available in workplaces, businesses and public areas to provide the highest level of safety for employees and visitors. There are several publicly available platforms where you can view the locations of all the AEDs in your area.

Defibrillation - simply explained. Our myPRIMEDIC Academy.

Are you interested in how a HeartSaveAED works, what features it offers, what its verbal instructions sound like?

Or you would like to familiarise yourself with its handling and functioning?

Just visit our eLearning platform ‘myPRIMEDIC Academy’. 'myPRIMEDIC Academy'. 

 

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Do you have any questions or would you like some advice?

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