Special considerations when using a defibrillator

Using a defibrillator can be lifesaving for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are easy to use. There are several special circumstances to consider when using an AED.

Excessive chest hair

If the victim has a hairy chest you will need to remove the hair prior to placing the AED pads on the victim’s chest. You may do this with a razor that is typically found with an AED or by attaching one set of AED pads and pulling them off forcibly removing the hair. You should ensure you have another set of AED pads prior to using one set to remove hair or you may not be able to use the AED. Leaving hair in place may cause the AED pads not make contact with the patient’s chest and cause the shock to be ineffective.

Medication Patches

If the victim has a medication patch on their skin in the area the AED pads are to be placed you must remove them prior to attaching the AED pads. Use gloved hands to remove the medication patch. Medications patches may divert the shock or represent a burn hazard if not removed.

Water and/or sweat

If the victim is covered in water or sweat attempt to dry the chest prior to applying the AED pads. Moisture may divert the shock from the heart.

Pacemakers or Defibrillators

If the victim has an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator continue to use an AED as otherwise indicated for other patients. Ensure the AED pads are at least an inch away from the victim’s device prior to delivering a shock. You continue to use an AED as it is unknown if the implanted device is functioning correctly. An implanted pacemaker or defibrillator will look like a small lump underneath the skin usually on the upper left side of the chest near the heart.

Fully Automated AED

Fully automated AEDs are devices they do not require a rescuer to push a button to deliver a shock to a victim. It is imperative to always listen to an AED and follow the instructions given.

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