AED Placement 

AED Placement

The AED procedure is a first aid response for sudden cardiac arrest before emergency medical services are provided to increase the survival rate. That is why the pressure for public access defibrillation units is rising.

The need for an emergency response can arise out of nowhere, so many airports, business centers and office buildings, educational institutions, shopping malls, retirement homes, and public buildings have already set up AED units on their premises, as well as had their staff go through the simple AED and CPR training.

AED is a device that anyone can use, with no medical training required; however, a piece of basic knowledge is beneficial to the life-saving AED process. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) employees undergo CPR and AED training, confirming its importance. Hence, knowing the proper AED pad placement can help and save someone’s life in an emergency response situation, so keep reading to get more familiar with the topic.

What is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?

An Automated External Defibrillator is a portable medical device that is used to deliver electrical shocks to the heart of a patient suffering from sudden cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is a condition when the heart ceases to function and the blood stops circulating through the body. Unfortunately, sudden cardiac arrest can often lead to a poor outcome, especially without timely CPR and defibrillation.

The toll is as high as 450,000 deaths yearly in the US due to cardiac arrest for patients in all age groups. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, more frequently called by its abbreviation CPR, and the AED procedure lower the odds of a lethal outcome due to a cardiac arrest, especially with a timely response.

Are AED and CPR the Same Procedure and What Training Level Is Required for Performing Them?

There is a common misconception regarding AED and CPR confusing them as the same procedure. This is not true, although the two complement each other. Before further detailing AED Pad Placement, it’s important to address the distinctions between AED and CPR.

AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, is a medical appliance created for sudden cardiac arrest treatment by the distribution of an electric shock to the victim’s heart to restore and normalize the rhythm of the heart.

An AED can be used by anyone with little training, as the devices are automated and set to perform a heart rhythm analysis to conclude whether an individual needs an electric shock. However, knowing how to place the AED pads properly is very important.

CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is a technique for manually pumping blood into the victim’s vital organs and breathing in air manually to their lungs during a cardiac arrest when the heart ceases to beat or the person’s breathing stops.

If the vital organs don’t receive blood any longer, they will start to fail in a relatively short time frame. Doing CPR and keeping the flowing of blood to the organs is key to survival and can help keep the victim alive until emergency medical services are provided.

A heart attack that turns into sudden cardiac arrest happens frequently and often out of the hospital, so CPR training can be a life-saving first aid skill for any individual. CPR requires a higher level of training and more extensive knowledge to be performed than AED.

Why is AED Pad Placement Important?

The proper placement of AED pads is critical for the success of the defibrillation process itself, and can influence the outcome, essentially saving a person’s life. The two main reasons proper AED pad placement is important are efficiency and safety.


The AED machine needs to deliver the electric shock to the heart efficiently, so the AED pads need to be correctly placed. The AED unit needs to accurately analyze the patient’s heart rhythm and deliver the appropriate shock.

If the pads are improperly placed, the AED may fail to detect the heart rhythm or deliver an ineffective shock. Hence, incorrect AED pad placement could potentially lead to defibrillation process failure and ultimately, even loss of the sudden cardiac arrest victim’s life.


If the pads are not placed correctly, potential harm can be done to the victim or the AED user. AED pads should not be placed over any metal objects or wet areas of the body, as this could cause an injury to the patient or the rescuer.

What is the Proper AED Pad Placement?

AED pad placement is a crucial step toward the effective use of the device, as any incorrect placement can lower the effectiveness of the electrical shock and decrease the survival rate.

Anterior-Lateral Position

This is considered the standard AED placement, and it works for most AED units. For the Anterior-Lateral Position there are two pads included in the AED kit: one pad is placed on the upper right side of the chest, just below the collarbone, and the other is placed on the lower left side of the chest, below the ribcage. Follow the steps of the procedure:

      • Step 1: Expose the patient’s chest by removing any clothing or other obstructions to make sure there is nothing between the AED pads and the skin.

      • Step 2: Attach the AED pads to the cables and gently remove the safety backing from the adhesive side of each pad.

      • Step 3: Place one pad on the upper right side of the chest, just below the collarbone, and the other pad on the lower left side of the chest, below the ribcage. Make sure the pads are centered on the chest and there is nothing between the pads and the skin.

    Anterior-Posterior Position

    Some AED units may use a different pad placement, such as the Anterior-Posterior Position, which involves placing one pad on the patient’s back between the shoulder blades and the other on the front of the chest.


    It is crucial to follow the specific instructions provided by the AED device being used, as there might be some variation of the pad placement requirement on the device in question. Reading and getting familiar with the user’s manual before using the AED device is essential.

    AED Pad Placement Precautionary Measures?

    Here’s a comprehensive list of safety precautions before proper AED pad placement.

    General Precaution

    Automated External Defibrillator devices are created to deliver electric shocks only when necessary and safe to do so. The device will analyze the rhythm of the heart and determine if there is a need for an electric shock.

    If the AED establishes a shock is required, the AED will inform the rescuer to stand clear before delivering the shock. It is essential to follow these prompts and to make sure that no one touches the patient when the shock is delivered for the first aid emergency response to be effective and safe for everyone around.

    Metal Surface

    The victim should not be in contact with metal surfaces, as these may conduct electric shocks to the rescuer or victim and cause harm. This includes any metallic jewelry, which should be relocated away from the AED pads and to the side of the chest because it can provoke sparks and burns to the chest when delivering an AED shock.

    Wet Surfaces and Water

    Water is an electrical conductor, so sweat, moisture, or water exposure while doing an AED procedure can create a risk for both the sudden cardiac arrest victim and the rescuer. Make sure the victim is placed in a dry spot, and wipe the chest clean and dry before the AED electrode pad application.

    The majority of AED units include a small towel in the kit to help with this potential issue. In addition, chest moisture may reduce the pad adhesion to the chest wall and ultimately affect the AED procedure’s effectiveness.

    Transdermal Patch

    AED pads should not be placed over the transdermal or medicated patch, as it can lead to burns due to AED electric shocks. You should remove the transdermal patches from the chest before the AED procedure.

    Additional Tip

    If the victim has chest hair, it should be shaved as it may prevent proper AED pad placement. The AED kits usually contain a small razor inside, so the rescuer is prepared.


    AEDs are a life-saving device when a person is having a sudden cardiac arrest or a heart attack that has progressed into a cardiac arrest. AEDs deliver electric shocks as a first aid emergency response before professional 911 emergency medical services are available. Proper AED pad placement is key for the effectiveness of the treatment for a sudden cardiac arrest, and also the safety of the rescuer.

    The standard AED placement is known as the anterior-lateral position and there is an alternative anterior-posterior position. However, it is essential to follow the specific instructions provided by the AED device being used and to ensure that no one is in physical contact with the patient when the shock is delivered.