Written on February 27, 2023 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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The American Heart Association explains that an automated external defibrillator (AED) is “a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can potentially stop an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and allow a normal rhythm to resume following sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. If not treated within minutes, it quickly leads to death” .
AEDs are defibrillators that are user-friendly and can be used outside of hospitals and clinical contexts by non-medical personnel. Anyone trained in CPR can use an AED.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “AEDs are used to revive someone from sudden cardiac arrest. This usually occurs when a disruption in the heart’s electrical activity causes a dangerously fast heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia) or a fast and irregular heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation). Either of these irregular heart rhythms keeps the heart from pumping effectively and can cause it to stop” .
AEDs “can resuscitate people only with a specific type of irregular heart rhythm” .
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure that can help save a person’s life if their breathing or heart stops, says the CDC, “When a person’s heart stops beating, they are in cardiac arrest. During cardiac arrest, the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body, including the brain and lungs. Death can happen in minutes without treatment. CPR uses chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps. These compressions help keep blood flowing throughout the body” .
The CDC reports that “Currently, about 9 in 10 people who have cardiac arrest outside the hospital die. But CPR can help improve those odds. If it is performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival” .
CPR can be used to save someone during a cardiac or breathing emergency.
As a general guide, below are the seven steps of CPR, according to the American Red Cross :
At the end of the previous guidelines, notice that it says to use an AED as soon as possible. In cases of sudden cardiac arrest, you should start CPR and begin using the AED when it is available: “Apply it and follow the prompts. Give one shock, then resume chest compressions for two more minutes before giving a second shock. If you’re not trained to use an AED, a 911 operator or another emergency medical operator may be able to give you instructions” .
It is a straightforward process to get certified in CPR and you should consider certification if you think you might find yourself in a situation where CPR might be helpful. Though, everyone will benefit from having the training under their belt.
The American Heart Association offers CPR and AED training through training centers. To find a training center you can call 1-888-AHA-4CPR or you may also visit heart.org/cpr to search by your ZIP code .