There are many automated external defibrillators (AED) available in medical related as well as public places. Most of the public know what an AED is – but have never had their hands on one or been trained on how to use one. And, because of this, many myths regarding AED use have developed. So, here is a list of the myths that Michele and I hear the most often from our healthcare students as well as the general public.
Myth 1: AEDs are difficult to use.
No. After you have called the emergency response team (Code Blue or 911) and you have begun CPR on a victim who appears pulseless and breathless, ask a bystander to get the AED. When an AED is available, simply turn it on and follow the AEDs directions. The AEDs are easy to use and are highly accurate in determining if a shock is needed. The AED talks and guides you through the correct and safe use of the pads. “Apply pads to patient’s bare chest and plug in the connector”. It is easier if one person can do the chest compressions while the other applies the AED pads. Anyone who has taken a CPR class learns about the AED and how to use it. Nothing difficult about it.
Myth 2: If I put the pads on wrong I will get sued.
No. The AED pads have pictures on the pads that explain where to apply the pads. If the pads aren’t on properly the AED will ask you to correct their placement. We don’t know of any lawsuits that have been brought against lay rescuers who attempt to provide CPR and use an AED. Generally speaking, our legal system provides nationwide Good Samaritan protection, exempting anyone who renders emergency treatment with a defibrillator in an effort to save someone’s life. Lawsuits are usually focused around health clubs or similar institutions that have certified CPR employees that did not have or use an AED at the time of a cardiac arrest. Generally, as long as a healthcare professional does not waver too far from standard CPR and AED procedure, they will most likely be protected.
Myth 3: It is too late to deliver a shock after 2 minutes of CPR.
No, it is not too late. A rescuer must deliver, and continue to deliver, high quality CPR. When the AED does arrive and the pads are applied to the victim, the AED will determine if the victim is still in a shockable rhythm, and it will ask you to press the shock button. There is still a chance of survival.
Myth 4: AED’s pads are not interchangeable for different age groups.
Wrong. The AED pads are made for the specific age groups – one size for adults, and another for children, and still another for infants. But, of course, the most common age group for AED usage is the older adult. Adult pads can be used on the child 1-8 years old, if the correct size is not available. Child pads can be used on infants. Infant/child combo pads are available for use as well. Do not use smaller pads on adults, because it will not provide enough joules (electrical power). In this case, continue applying chest compressions – high-quality CPR.
Myth 5: The chest must be dry in order for the AED pads to work.
Wrong. Obviously the chest should be as dry as possible for the strongest and safest delivery of a shock. If possible, quickly dry off the chest, but do not delay defibrillation if the AED suggests a shock is required.
Myth 6: Do not use the AED if the victim has a pacemaker/defibrillator or is in contact with a metal surface.
Wrong. If there is an apparent device under the skin where the pads would be placed, simply place the pads in another spot at least 2 inches away from the device. If you think the victim is being shocked by their own internal defibrillator, stand clear. Be prepared to start CPR and apply the AED pads as well. Call 911 as soon as possible. It has been proven that moving patients off of metal surfaces is unnecessary because there is very little risk to the CPR provider.
Myth 7: AEDs malfunction and don’t give enough joules.
Wrong. The number of AED malfunctions is very small compared to the number of the times AEDs are used without a problem. The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that at least 15,000 – 20,000 annually lives are at risk from a heart attack and could possibly be saved with the quick and proper use of and AED.
Myth 8: Home AEDs do not save lives.
Approximately 80% of the deaths occur in the home, so it makes sense to have an AED in the home. However, family members often do not remember where the AED is located within their own home or within in their parent’s home. Family members are also afraid to use it once the find the AED. They typically fear that they will use it incorrectly and harm their loved one. If the AED is used quickly and correctly, it can save a life. We must remember that AEDs are very often used successfully in major public locations like shopping malls, airports, and casinos.
Myth 9: I need to be a healthcare professional to use the AED.
Wrong. Certainly, if you are a health professional and use emergency equipment every day you would probably be comfortable using an AED – applying the pads and actually shocking someone. But the AED is so simple and straight forward to use that anyone in the general public can use successfully – even without taking a CPR certification class. But there are classes for the general public that include AED training.
Myth 10: There are no resources for the lifesaver in the community.
Wrong. There are plenty of life-saver and CPR classes in schools, libraries, community centers, and hospitals throughout America. There are also plenty of very good free videos on YouTube. The American Heart Association (AHA) sells a video with an inexpensive blow-up manikin to help a family practice their CPR skills. There are also applications for smart-phones that can help you call 911, as well as guide you through the steps of CPR.
Kunz is certified by American Heart Association as being proficient in BLS, CPR, and AED – since 1988. He is also an AHA Certified BLS, CPR, and AED instructor.