What You Need to Know About Using a Defibrillator

When it comes to saving a life, few things can substitute for a defibrillator. These lifesaving machines are used to administer electrical shocks to a person's heart who is experiencing ventricular fibrillation. Yet it seems like they are popping up in airports, schools, gyms, and government offices all over the country. Which means it is important to know...

How to Use a Defibrillator

Actually, you don't need to know how to use a defibrillator at all unless you are a trained medical professional. Manual and semi-automated defibrillators are used by doctors, nurses, and paramedics, not by the layperson. This is because these machines are designed to perform multiple tasks, not just shock a person who is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Defibrillators are used to monitor patients, perform cardioversion or otherwise correct problems with a patient's heart rhythm.
Physio-Control LIFEPAK 12 An example of a defibrillator

What Patients Should Know

The heart uses your body's electricity to pump blood throughout your body around 115,000 times per day. Electrolyte imbalances, blockages, genetic predisposition, sleep apnea, and certain medications can cause the electrical pulses that control heart rate to misfire in some ways. Some of them can be resolved with changes in lifestyle and medication while others require more invasive procedures. This is where a defibrillator is useful. These versatile pieces of equipment can monitor the heart, perform pacing procedures to help the heart return to normal and administer larger electrical shocks if they are needed. If your heart is beating too quickly, a condition called tachycardia, it cannot effectively fill before pumping blood to the rest of the body. This inefficiency can result in dizziness, fainting or tightness in the chest. In this case, a defibrillator might be used to perform a procedure called cardioversion where a series of small electrical shocks force the heart back into a normal rhythm. You are usually sedated during this procedure and are allowed to return home the same day.
Philips Heartstart MRx Defibrillator Check out the Philips Heartstart MRx Defibrillator
If your heart is beating irregularly, a condition called fibrillation, your doctor will determine its type before deciding on the course of treatment. Atrial fibrillation causes poor blood flow and increases the likelihood you will have a stroke or blood clot. It is also associated with fatigue, dizziness, and shortness of breath. A doctor may prescribe medication to help the heart pump more efficiently or use a defibrillator to perform a similar cardioversion procedure that is used for tachycardia. On the other hand, ventricular fibrillation (vFib) is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest, a life-threatening condition. Someone in V-Fib is typically unconscious while emergency medical personnel start CPR to keep blood flowing to the brain. They will also administer progressively more powerful electrical shocks to try to restore the heart's normal rhythm. Curious which defibrillator is right for your hospital, medical center or clinic? Want to know more about the latest features available on defibrillators? Contact one of the equipment specialists at One Beat Medical today for more information.