CPR First Aid

Using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): The Step-by-Step Guide

Using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): The Step-by-Step Guide

Have you ever witnessed a first aider use an automated external defibrillator (AED) for someone who has had cardiac arrest? It may look intimidating. Using an automated external defibrillator (AED) involves steps that are part of first aid management and are vital in saving a person’s life. Knowing how to use an AED, properly follow these steps and respond to other emergencies may be learned by enrolling in a first aid course available in Modbury. These first aid steps will be discussed below.

What are Defibrillators?

Defibrillators are medical devices that give a high electric shock to a person’s heart in an attempt to restore its correct rhythm.

"Medical device shocks heart to restore rhythm."

How do Defibrillators Work?

Defibrillators depolarize the whole heart system, giving the heart a “fresh start” to repolarize and return to a normal heartbeat. After this process, which is called defibrillation, the new heartbeat will be monitored by the defibrillators. Depending on the rate, the defibrillators will advise you to either repeat the process or make sure the patient does not slip back into arrhythmia. If the shock is not strong enough, the heart may not completely repolarize, causing the continuity of arrhythmia.

What are Depolarization and Repolarization?

Cardiac cells at rest are in a polarized state as there is no electrical activity. There is a resting potential when the cell membrane of the cardiac muscle cell separates different concentrations of ions (sodium, potassium, and calcium).

In depolarization, the ions cross the cell membrane and cause an action potential. The movement of ions across the cell membrane (through sodium, potassium, and calcium channels), is the drive that leads to the contraction of the cardiac cells/muscle. Depolarization with the corresponding contraction of myocardial muscle moves like a wave through the heart.

In repolarization, the ions return to their previous resting state, leading to the relaxation of the myocardial muscle.

What is Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm that is known to be the immediate cause of cardiac arrest. It may be caused by the following:

  • Existing heart disease
  • An imbalance between electrolytes in your blood
  • Heart injury
  • Medications
  • There is a problem with the electrical signals in your heart

These may increase the risk of having an arrhythmia.

What is Cardiac Arrest?

Cardiac arrest may happen due to a malfunctioning heart that leads it to suddenly stop pumping blood. When it happens, there may be a loss of heartbeat, breathing, and consciousness. It may also lead to a person’s disability or death if a first aid response is not done immediately. First aid treatment may be performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using a defibrillator.

What are the Types of Defibrillators?

Defibrillators come in different types. Each type may be used only by a certain group of people and in certain situations. These are the following:

  • Advanced Life Support Defibrillators
  • Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs)
  • Wearable defibrillators
  • Automated External Defibrillators (AED)

Each type of defibrillator has its capabilities and size.

What are Advanced Life Support Defibrillators?

This type of defibrillator is usually found in hospitals and emergency medical transport vehicles. They may be used by a medical professional to control the patient’s heart rate and manually intercede if a shock is required. It may have most or all of the following distinct features:

  • Offers an advisory or AED function (waveform analysis and shock recommendations).
  • Offers SpO2, a means to monitor the oxygenation level of the patient via an external sensor.
  • Has an external pacing capability to allow external pacing of bradycardic rhythms.
  • Monitor carbon dioxide levels (capnography).
  • Automatically measure the patient’s blood pressure via a blood pressure cuff, called Non-Invasive Blood Pressure (NIBP).

Advanced Life Support Defibrillators are known to have the most advanced monitoring parameters among all types of defibrillators.

Hospital-grade defibrillator for professional use in controlling heart rate & administering shocks.

What are Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs)?

ICDs are found inside a person’s body as these are surgically inserted into a patient’s chest. This is performed by a doctor, health, or medical professional on people who are at high risk of having a cardiac arrest. According to the Heart Organization, newer ICDs may have the following functions:

  • Provide “overdrive” pacing to electrically convert a sustained ventricular tachycardia (fast heart rhythm).
  • Provide “backup” pacing if bradycardia (slow heart rhythm) occurs.
  • Storage of detected arrhythmic events.
  • Ability to perform electrophysiologic testing.

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are implanted in a pouch under the skin of the chest or abdomen.

What are Wearable Defibrillators?

These are vest-like defibrillators worn by people at high risk of having cardiac arrest but are not candidates for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). These may consist of the following:

  • Chest garment with two defibrillator pads positioned vertically along the back.
  • A frontal belt containing a horizontally positioned defibrillator pad with electrodes that detect the heart rhythm.
  • Small monitor box that records the rhythms and contains the battery.

Once activated, a wearable defibrillator may alarm the user once it detects a lethal arrhythmia and then activates a defibrillation sequence.

Vest-like defibs for high-risk cardiac patients not ICD candidates.

What are Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)?

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are usually found in public places like schools, government offices, malls, gyms, sports arenas, and airports. It is portable that usually comes in a kit along with other medical tools helpful in performing defibrillation. AEDs are the only prescribed type of defibrillator for home use and may be handled by a certified first aider. A first aider is an emergency respondent who has gone through an accredited first aid course in Modbury.

Is it Important to have Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)?

Defibrillators like Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) may be used for someone who has had a cardiac arrest. Using this may be the second option if CPR does not work. As mentioned above, it is the only type of defibrillator accessible and prescribed for public and home use. These are the recorded places where most Australians suffer from cardiac arrests, also called out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). OHCA occurs in about 20,000 Australians every year according to Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, where only 10% survive.

How much are Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)?

In Australia, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) may cost from about $1500 to $4,000. Prices vary depending on the features of AED.

How to Use Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)?

The steps in using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are:

  1. Retrieve the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) by opening its case and turning it on.
  2. Expose the person’s chest. Dry if it’s wet and/or remove medication patches.
  3. Open the AED pads by peeling off the backing and checking for a pacemaker or internal defibrillator.
  4. Apply one pad to the upper right chest above the breast and the other to the lower left chest below the armpit.
  5. Check if the wires are attached to the AED box.
  6. Move away from the person. Stop CPR and clear the person by informing others not to touch him/her.
  7. Let AED analyze the rhythm.
  8. If the AED message shows “Check Electrodes,” then:
    -Ensure that electrodes make good contact.
    -Pull off the pad and replace it if the chest is hairy.
  9. If the AED message shows “Shock,”
    -Clear the person by making sure no one is touching them.
    -Press and hold the “shock” button until the AED delivers the shock 
  10. Resume CPR for two minutes starting with chest compressions.
  11. Repeat steps 1-10.

Using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) is already a first aid response to cardiac arrests. As mentioned above, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is part of the process. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is another first aid treatment that has its first aid steps to be followed. Both of these life-saving first aid management skills may be acquired by enrolling in first aid training available in Modbury.

What are the First Aid Courses I May Enrol In?

Below are the first aid courses that involve using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR):

Both of these are offered by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)-regulated first aid course providers in Modbury.

What is the NRT LogoHLTAID009 Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation First Aid Course?

It is a Unit of Competency that provides the skills and knowledge required to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in line with the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) Guidelines. This CPR update course is the most recent version of what is often referred to as the CPR Update or CPR Refresher. This Unit replaces the previous course codes HLTCPR201A, HLTCPR201B, HLTCPR211A, and most recently HLTAID001.

What is the NRT LogoHLTAID011 Provide first aid Course?

This is the most popular first aid course in Modbury. This course is the minimum first aid course for any first aider in the workplace. It is required by all workplaces and replaces courses previously known as Level 2 and Senior First Aid.


Using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) involves first aid steps like performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Knowing how to correctly perform these first aid skills may help save a person who has had a cardiac arrest. These skills may be acquired by enrolling in first aid courses available in Modbury.

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