You may have seen a defibrillator installed in your local village, in the supermarkets, at the office or in your nearby sports facility but always wondered why the are so important and what they are needed for. It can be confusing knowing the difference between a heart attack and a sudden cardiac arrest and understanding when a defibrillator is needed which is why we have written this blog to help clarify a few questions and answer a significant question; does a defibrillator restart a stopped heart?
When would I need a defibrillator?
Defibrillators are medical devices that are needed when someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest. Often confused with a heart attack but, something very different, a sudden cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical fault within the hearts rhythm and causes a victim to fall unconscious within a matter of seconds. Their heart will begin beating irregularly and if care isn’t delivered within a matter of minutes, the likelihood of someone surviving is unfortunately very slim. This is very different to a heart attack as these are caused usually due to a blockage in the coronary artery and the victim will experience pain in the chest that spreads to their arms or neck.
With this, it is important to know that you should use a defibrillator when someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest. The person will be unconscious meaning you need to act as quickly as possible by firstly calling the emergency services, then beginning CPR and whilst getting ready to use your defibrillator.
What does a defibrillator do?
A defibrillator works to save a persons life by scanning the heart’s electrical rhythm and determining whether a shock should be delivered. They are designed for ease of use so don’t worry if you have absolutely no medical training, all instructions are clearly presented on defibrillators as well as clear audio steps helping you through every stage of the process.
From attaching the electrode pads to the victims chest to carrying out CPR, defibrillators are life saving medical tools that help restore a person’s heart back to it’s natural rhythm. There are also two types of defibrillator to consider, one being semi-automatic and the other being an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Both work in identical ways however, a semi-automatic defibrillator will tell you to push a button when a shock needs to be delivered where as an AED will deliver a shocks itself without you doing anything. It is important to remember that you can never over-shock or cause more damage to someone when using a defibrillator as it will never deliver a shock unless one is needed.
Does and AED really restart a heart?
One of the most common questions when it comes to defibrillators is if they really ‘restart a heart’ and the answer is actually no. As when someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest their heart starts to beat irregularly (this is called fibrillation), oxygenated blood is no longer being pumped around the body. In order to help the heart start beating regularly again, defibrillators work my stopping the chaotic rhythm of the heart so that it can return to it’s natural beating rhythm on it’s own.
Sudden cardiac arrests can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender or ethnicity and can kill within a matter of minutes but, having a defibrillator nearby can change this. When out and about in your local park, gym, supermarket or when at work look out for where your nearest defibrillator is so that if the worst should happen, you know what to do.