Defibrillation, put simply, is a procedure that delivers an electric shock to the heart to try to restore its normal rhythm. It can be likened to
re-booting a computer that isn’t operating correctly. It should be administered within 3-5 minutes after collapse for success. Chances of survival decrease
about 10% per minute without defibrillation.
To truly understand defibrillation though, you first have to understand a little bit about the how your heart works and ventricular fibrillation...ready?
Here we go!
Your heart is a muscle and like any other muscle in your body, when it receives a shock, it will contract. This is very basically how your heart works.
Your heart creates an electrical current that shocks the heart in the proper place at the proper time which in turn causes it to contract/beat and pump
blood throughout your body. This is considered normal electrical activity of the heart.
When a person experiences a
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
(many times following a heart attack) the
normal electrical rhythm is disrupted and becomes very chaotic, causing the heart to cease normal pumping activity and to begin fibrillating. If you
could see a picture of a heart in fibrillation it would not be beating normally, instead it would appear to be tremoring as the electrical activity is
unorganized and is not shocking the heart effectively.
The most common underlying electrical arrhythmia associated with SCA is Ventricular Fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation is almost always fatal without
treatment, but is, at least for a short period of time (usually 10 minutes or less and ideally within 3-5 minutes), still a readily treatable rhythm
through a process called defibrillation. Good CPR from a bystander will also help to increase the person’s chance of survival when used in conjunction with
an AED, however, CPR in itself cannot treat Ventricular Fibrillation…it is a tool designed to buy time until an AED arrives.
Here is how defibrillation is achieved with an AED: Once the AED is turned on and the electrodes/patches are attached, the AED determines if a shock is
needed or not. Note: The user CANNOT shock someone if they do not need it! If a shock is needed, the AED will charge up and prompt the user to deliver the
shock (semi automatic models) or warn the rescuers to clear, and then deliver the shock (fully automatic models) which sends an electrical shock through
the heart. This electrical shock process is called defibrillation.
Though this all might seem a little confusing or even overwhelming, what’s important to understand is that the shock (defibrillation) will stop all of the
chaotic electrical activity that is happening in the heart during ventricular fibrillation. If this is done within the first few minutes of a sudden
cardiac arrest the chances that the heart will go back to normal electrical activity resulting in a normal heart beat can be increased by up to 86%.
Without defibrillation, the chances of someone surviving SCA decrease by 7-10% per minute and irreversible brain death begins to occur at 4-6 minutes.
Start shopping for your AED
today, or contact us
for more information.