FAQ

Can the AED itself make a mistake?

It is unlikely. Studies show that AEDs interpret the victim’s heart rhythm more quickly and accurately than many trained emergency professionals. If the AED determines that no shock is needed, it will not allow a shock to be given.

Can a non-medical person make a mistake when using an AED?

AEDs are safe to use by anyone who has been shown how to use them.

The AED’s voice guides the rescuer through the steps involved in saving someone; for example, “apply pads to patient’s bare chest” (the pads themselves have pictures of where they should be placed) and “press red shock button.” Furthermore, safeguards have been designed into the unit precisely so that non-medical responders can’t use the AED to shock someone who doesn’t need a shock.

What if I’m not certain whether or not I need to use an AED?

Remember this rule: Only use an AED on someone you would do CPR on—unresponsive and not breathing.

What if I don’t perform all the steps of CPR and defibrillation perfectly?

Treating SCA is a high-stress situation. Even experienced health care providers do not do everything perfectly. During SCA, performing CPR and using an AED can only help the victim.

I shocked a person in SCA within minutes after she collapsed, but they did not survive. Did I do something wrong?

Unfortunately, because of other underlying medical or heart problems, a victim of SCA who is in VF may not survive even if defibrillation is done promptly and correctly.

How much of the victim’s clothing should be removed to carry out defibrillation?

The chest should be exposed to allow the placement of the disposable electrode pads. A woman’s bra should be removed. Clothes may need to be cut off.

Can I accidentally shock another rescuer or myself?

AEDs are extremely safe when used properly. The electric shock is designed to go from one electrode pad to another through the victim’s chest. Basic precautions, such as verbally warning others to stand clear and visually checking the area before and during the shock, can maximize the safety of rescuers.

If defibrillation is so important, why should I do CPR?

CPR provides some circulation of oxygen-rich blood to the victim’s heart and brain. This circulation delays both brain death and the death of heart muscle. CPR also makes the heart more likely to respond to defibrillation.

Should I perform CPR first or apply electrode pads from the AED?

Start CPR immediately. Once the AED is present, apply the electrode pads to the victim’s bare chest, and follow the AED’s voice prompts and messages. It will tell you when to resume CPR.

Is there Government legislation or recommendation that employers should have AEDs?

There is no specific legal requirement for employers to provide defibrillators in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive’s syllabus of first aid training for offshore installations does include the use of defibrillators, but this is not extended to onshore first aid. However, the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 do not prevent an employer from providing defibrillators that could benefit both their employees and the public.

For information on workplace health and safety legislation please refer to the Health and Safety Executive’s website.

If my place of work does not have an AED what should I do?

If you think an AED should be installed in your workplace, read the Guide to AEDs written by Resuscitation Council UK and the BHF as this will answer your questions in detail. If you wish to proceed, contact your local ambulance service for further advice as described in the Guide.

Should all schools have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?

Fortunately, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in school-age children is rare. Resuscitation attempts at schools are more likely to be made on an adult (staff member or visitor) than a pupil. The presence of an AED at a school therefore provides potential benefit for everyone present at the site.

An additional and important advantage of having an AED prominently located at a school is that students become familiar with them and can learn about first aid, resuscitation and the purpose of defibrillation.

The Department of Education has issued guidance about the installation of AEDs in schools.

Is it safe to use an AED on a pregnant person?

Yes. Fortunately, cardiac arrest is rare in people who are pregnant, but if it were to occur it is quite appropriate to use an AED. The procedure is the same as in the non-pregnant but it is important to place the pads clear of enlarged breasts.

Is it safe to use an AED on a child?

Yes. The incidence of shockable rhythms requiring defibrillation in children is very low but can occur. The priority must always be for high-quality CPR and getting expert help. However, the AED can be used across all age groups if this is the only available machine.

The paediatric advanced life support Guidelines 2015 state that if using an AED on a child of less than eight years, a paediatric attenuated shock energy should be used if possible. 

Experience with the use of AEDs (preferably with dose attenuator) in children younger than one year is limited. The use of an AED is acceptable if no other option is available as, on balance, it is probably better to give a 50 J shock than nothing at all. The upper safe limit for dosage in this group is unknown.

Do I need training to use an AED?

AEDs have been used by untrained people to save lives. Clear, spoken instructions and visual illustrations guide users through the process. Lack of training should not be a barrier to someone using one. If a person is in cardiac arrest, do not be afraid to use an AED.

What is Public Access Defibrillation (PAD)?

Public Access Defibrillation describes the use of AEDs by members of the public. AEDs can now be found in many busy public places including airports, mainline railway stations, shopping centres, and gyms. They are meant to be used by members of the public if they witness a cardiac arrest.

Are AEDs safe to use?

AEDs are very reliable and will not allow a shock to be given unless it is needed. They are extremely unlikely to do any harm to a person who has collapsed in suspected Sudden Cardiac Arrest. They are safe to use and present minimal risk to the rescuer. These features make them suitable for use by members of the public with little or no training).

How do I know if I should install an AED?

Resuscitation Council UK and British Heart Foundation have written a Guide to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) which gives full information about the use of AEDs in the community. We urge you to read this as it will answer your questions in more detail.

How should Sudden Cardiac Arrest be treated?

SCA is treatable most of the time—especially when it is due to an electrical abnormality called ventricular fibrillation— as long as it is treated quickly. Treatment includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of defibrillators. This treatment must be provided immediately to be effective, ideally within three to five minutes after collapse. Even the fastest emergency medical services may not be able to reach a victim this quickly. That is why prompt action by bystanders is critical and why it is so important that more laypersons learn CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Laypersons should be prepared to recognize the emergency, call for professional help, give CPR and use the nearest AED. If the person is not responsive and not breathing normally, one should suspect SCA and start CPR. This has been called the “No-No-Go” protocol. When a person suffers cardiac arrest, he or she is clinically dead, but life can often be restored with immediate bystander action.

Subsequent care includes administration of medications and other advanced cardiac life support techniques by emergency medical personnel. Patients who have been successfully resuscitated but remain in a coma after cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation (VF) may benefit from mild therapeutic hypothermia (cooling), which can improve the chances of survival with good brain function. SCA survivors should see heart specialists (cardiologists and electrophysiologists) for follow-up care.