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When To Use A Defibrillator?

Defibrillators are designed to re-regulate the heartbeat after a person suffers a Sudden Cardiac Arrest. There is a common confusion among untrained members of the community about the difference between Sudden Cardiac Arrest and a Heart Attack. In reality, the only similarity is that both health emergencies involve the heart. A cardiac arrest is caused by an irregularity in the electrical activity in the heart’s ventricular muscle, commonly known as ‘fibrillation’. When fibrillation occurs, the heart cannot effectively pump blood around the body, which then prompts the heart to go into cardiac arrest.


You will know when to use a Defibrillator if:

  • A person has collapsed on the ground
  • That person is not responding
  • That person is not breathing

Beyond these signs, don’t delay treatment. Each minute without Defibrillation decreases the chances of survival by 10%.

When a person suffers a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, you must first provide CPR to circulate blood and ensure the body remains oxygenated whilst applying a Defibrillator as soon as possible. The electrical shock from the Defibrillator is the only method a First Aider can use to stop fibrillation and return the heartbeat to its healthy rhythm.


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How To Use An Automated External Defibrillator?

Automated External Defibrillators are designed for everyday people with little or no training. Depending on the brand of the Defibrillator, it may provide verbal, visual or written prompts on how to use the device. The Philips HeartStart HS1 provides step-by-step verbal clarification on what to do in the case of a cardiac emergency. The Philips HeartStart HS1 will prompt you as follows:

  • Once you ‘ PULL ‘ the lever or press the ‘On’ button, the voice prompt will begin.
  • You will be asked to remove all clothing from the casualty’s chest, cut clothing if required and shave any thick hair. These items should be in the Defibrillator case.
  • It will specify that once the casualty’s chest is bare to take out the white, adhesive pads.
  • The pads have an image on the front which shows how to position the pads on the casualty’s chest. You will be asked to position the pads as shown in the picture.
  • Peel the yellow protector off the pad and press the pad firmly onto the casualty’s skin
  • It will then ask you to look at the picture on the unused pad and position the second pad as outlined in this picture.
  • Peel the yellow protector off the unused pad and press the second pad firmly onto the casualty’s skin
  • You will be told not to touch the casualty so the device can analyse the heart’s rhythm.
  • Whilst analysing the heart’s rhythm, it will announce ‘ ANALYSING.’
  • If it detects that the person’s heart is fibrillating, it will ask you to ‘STAND CLEAR — SHOCK REQUIRED.
  • It will ask you to press the orange button then administer the shock. The orange button will be flashing.
  • It will advise ‘ SHOCK DELIVERED ‘ once complete.
  • You will then be prompted to provide CPR. It will talk you through the 120 beats per minute rhythm.
  • Further shocks may be required following continued CPR. Follow the instructions given by the Defibrillator until further help arrives.


What do you need to know about Defibrillators?

  • To remove all clothing from the casualty’s chest.
  • Move necklaces to the side. Piercings do not need to be removed. If piercings have a connecting chain that interrupts the defibrillator pad path, cut the chain
  • If possible, shave casualty’s chest hair where the pads are required
  • Ensure the casualty’s skin is dry, pat down with a towel if required
  • You CAN use a Defibrillator on someone with a pacemaker, place the pad a few centimetres away from the pacemaker scar/area
  • A Defibrillator will not provide a shock unless it detects that the casualty’s heart is in ‘fibrillation’. You, therefore, can do NO HARM by applying a defibrillator to a casualty
  • If a child is under eight years of age or below 25kg, you are required to use child-specific electrode pads. If you do not have these, wait for paramedics to arrive.
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