If you find yourself in the middle of a sudden cardiac arrest, whether you’re on the receiving end of it or a bystander, you’d want to have an AED within 90 seconds of the spot where the emergency is taking place. While any kind of Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is better than no AED at all, variety is always good, and that is precisely what the different types of AEDs offer in an emergency.
Different kinds of AEDs come with different responsibilities, and the more you understand each type and its specific features, the easier you’ll be able to use them if needed.
AEDs help shock the heart into rhythm, but not all AEDs are the same. There are several main differences among the units, which help place them in different categories. Each of these is broadly applicable but has precise uses based on their performance parameters.
Our goal today is to discuss what are the different types of AEDs available, so that the next time you find yourself staring at an AED cabinet, you’ll know exactly what to expect inside.
How Do AEDs Work?
The mechanism behind an AED is to deliver a controlled electric shock to the heart to stop it from pumping for a short time. This will reset the heart, thus bypassing the issues with the electrical impulses, which are the cause or result of a sudden cardiac arrest. The underlying idea that defibrillators directly restart the heart is, in fact, a myth.
When an AED is attached to a person in cardiac arrest, it analyzes the heart’s electrical activity through adhesive electrode pads or paddles placed on the victim’s chest. The AED then determines whether a shock is necessary based on the irregularities in the heart rhythm it detects in cardiac arrest victims. If a shock is needed, the device provides voice prompts or visual instructions to guide the user in delivering the shock or delivers it by itself, depending on the type.
Understanding What Are the Different Types of AEDs Available
Depending on the type, AEDs can deliver electric shocks of different amplitudes, making them suitable for use even by untrained people. Knowing more about the different AEDs will make you comfortable in situations requiring an AED. The most common AEDs come in one of the following versions:
Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are the most user-friendly AEDs for the general public to use in emergencies. These AEDs are found in airports, schools, sports arenas, and other public areas. They can be completely automated, analyzing the heart rhythm once the pads are in place or providing voice prompts to tell the user how to perform a shock if necessary. AEDs come in two versions, depending on how automated the unit’s system is:
- Fully Automated AEDs: These are the “smart” AEDs that analyze the rhythm, deliver shocks by themselves, and constantly report on everything happening. If one of these is on hand, you only need to place the pads and stand back. It will do everything itself.
- Semi-Automated AEDs: These AEDs analyze the rhythm and advise if and when a shock is required, but they won’t deliver it. Instead, it will give audible instructions on how to deliver the shock yourself. This type of AED is most commonly found in workplaces and public areas.
Wearable defibrillators, or Wearable Cardioverter-Defibrillators (WCDs), are portable devices that patients wear for continuous monitoring. They also have the potential to treat life-threatening arrhythmias. Individuals who are at risk of cardiac arrest but not at a level that requires an implantable device usually get a WCD prescribed by their physician.
These devices can detect the heart’s rhythm alterations and administer electric shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm, just like all other defibrillators. WCDs are similar to vests with a built-in defibrillator and a battery that attaches at belt level.
Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators (ICDs)
Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators (ICDs) are surgically implanted devices that continuously monitor the heart’s rhythm. They are recommended for individuals who are at a high risk of massive cardiac arrest or those who have experienced previous significant episodes of life-threatening arrhythmias.
ICDs are placed inside the chest, with a generator under the clavicle bone and the leads adhering to the heart’s wall through the cardiac veins. These types of AEDs are primarily used in cases where long-term monitoring and immediate intervention are necessary.
Manual External Defibrillators
Manual External Defibrillators are commonly found in hospitals and ambulances but might also appear in some public areas. These defibrillators use external paddles to deliver electric shocks to the heart and should only be handled by highly trained medical professionals. They give medics and doctors more control over the timing and intensity of the shock, making them suitable for complex cases. However, they are challenging for those without specific training and manual defibrillator certification.
Advanced Life Support Defibrillators
Advanced Life Support (ALS) Defibrillators are heavy-duty resuscitation machines used only by medical professionals and paramedics. Their advanced features and capabilities allow healthcare providers to assess and stabilize patients in critical conditions.
These defibrillators are only exclusively located in ambulances and hospitals. They provide comprehensive monitoring of the patient’s vital signs, including blood pressure, carbon monoxide levels, and ECG readings, to mention a few.
Benefits of Different AED Types
Each type of AED offers unique benefits depending on the intended use and level of expertise required to operate it. AEDs in public areas are usually of the fully automated variety, providing ease of use and requiring no or minimal training. These devices are crucial for early intervention in sudden cardiac arrest cases, dramatically increasing the victims’ chances of survival.
On the other hand, professional AEDs used in healthcare settings offer sets of different, highly advanced features and plenty of options for adjustable manual intervention, making them a lot more versatile and powerful but only suitable for trained medical professionals.
Choosing the Right AED
Depending on several important factors, you can choose the AED most suitable for your needs. Now that we have covered what are the different types of AEDs available, let’s take a look at a few things to consider when picking one out:
- Environment: Where will the AED be located? Some AEDs, for example, are designed to withstand exceedingly harsh conditions, making them ideal for outdoor use or industrial settings.
- Operators: Who will be using the AED? Some models are designed for professional use, while others are intended for the general public and have intuitive user interfaces and fully automated features.
- Price: AEDs can vary in price quite significantly. Consider your budget and the features you need before picking one, but always turn toward the AED’s requirements as a deciding factor.
- Ease of Use: Look for an AED with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. Fully automatic AEDs are the easiest and most convenient, providing visual and audio prompts to guide the user through the process.
- Maintenance: Regular maintenance ensures the AEDs are in working order. Since only accredited professionals can check and confirm whether an AED is operational, determining who will take care of your AEDs is crucial when choosing one.
- Pediatric Capability: If the AED will be in an environment with children, such as a school, consider an AED with pediatric capability.
AED Maintenance and Certification
Proper maintenance of the AEDs and regular refresher courses are crucial for the effective use of AEDs. The units have to undergo scheduled routine maintenance checks to ensure they are in proper working condition. This includes regularly checking battery life, electrode pad expiration dates, and device functionality.
Training programs, such as CPR and AED certification courses, provide individuals with the necessary skills to confidently use AEDs and perform life-saving techniques. Regular training refreshers, though, are essential to maintain proficiency and keep up with the latest guidelines and best practices.
AED Placement and Public Access
Strategic placement of AEDs in public locations is crucial for maximizing their potential impact in saving lives. AEDs should be easily accessible and visible to the public, ensuring quick access in emergencies. At least one AED per floor usually complies with the 90-second rule, which dictates that access to an AED should be more than 90 seconds from an emergency scene.
Placing AEDs in high-traffic areas, such as building entrances, lobbies, and central locations, increases the ease of access in sudden cardiac arrest emergencies. AEDs should also be in boxes containing clear signs and instructions regarding the content. Finally, awareness campaigns play a significant role in enhancing public access and utilization of these life-saving devices.
The availability of different types of AEDs plays a critical role in effectively responding to sudden cardiac arrest and improving survival rates. The different types of defibrillators offer unique features and benefits to meet the diverse needs of various environments and patients. Understanding what are the different types of AEDs available, how they operate, and how to maintain them is essential for effective implementation and utilization in both public and professional settings.
After understanding everything about the different kinds of AEDs, it is clear that getting training and certification in the field is a crucial step in being comfortable with using one. Training and certification in using any type of AED is as easy as enrolling in one of our CPR certification courses today. All you need to do is contact us!