An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a device that checks a person’s heart and delivers an electric shock if it has stopped beating normally.
If a person suddenly collapses, they may be suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA is serious. It means that the person’s heart has stopped pumping blood and they need help fast.
The most important element in the treatment of SCA is to provide a rapid shock to their heart called defibrillation. An automated external defibrillator (AED) helps ordinary people to provide defibrillation quickly.
While we recommend that everyone receive training in CPR and using an AED, AEDs are designed to coach you through the process, even if you haven’t had training. The device determines if a shock is necessary and if it is, a calm, clear voice explains exactly what to do. It actively adapts the instructions to keep you on track. Intelligent sensors assess and automatically deliver the right shock, at the right time ‐ personalized to every man, woman, or child.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack
A heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs when the heart’s blood supply is reduced or blocked. The heart muscle becomes injured or may start to die. During a heart attack, the victim is conscious. In fact, the victim may complain about symptoms.
An SCA is an electrical problem in the heart which causes the heart to beat in an irregular, inefficient manner. Since the blood can’t circulate to the brain, the victim passes out.
A heart attack victim has a pulse but an SCA victim does not.
You don’t have to remember these distinctions. When the AED instructs you to put the pads on the victim, it will sense the heart rhythm and determine the best steps to take, giving you guidance all along the way.