What is an AED and Why is it Important?

Automated external defibrillators (AED) can be found in most public buildings, sports venues, airports, near elevators, and anywhere else a large number of people may gather. They are used to help people who are experiencing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Most SCAs result from ventricular fibrillation (VF). VF is a rapid and unsynchronized heart rhythm that originates in the heart’s lower chambers (the ventricles). To combat ventricular fibrillation, AEDs analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and if necessary, deliver an electrical shock, or defibrillation, to help re-establish an effective rhythm in the heart.

Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from sudden cardiac arrest each year making SCA among the leading causes of death in the United States. However, the only current way of restoring an effective rhythm in the heart is through the use of an AED.

Although sophisticated, anyone can be trained to use an AED. Because AEDs are portable, they can be used by nonmedical people (lay-rescuers). They are made part of emergency response programs that also include rapid use of 9-1-1 and prompt delivery of cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). All three of these activities are vital to improving survival from SCA.

Many organizations such as the red cross offer classes  to help teach the use of an AED – how to use an AED is also something that is taught in the youth heart screenings Nick of Time Foundation puts on, that Alexander’s Hope helps to fund.

Knowledge of how to operate an AED is important because immediate bystander intervention can more than double a victim’s chance for survival. The heart must be “defibrillated” quickly, because a victim’s chance of surviving drops by seven to 10 percent for every minute a normal heartbeat isn’t restored. Of course, you can–and should–request the assistance of trained medical professionals. However, because the average response time for first responders once 911 is called is 8-12 minutes, knowing how to operate an AED will greatly increase the survival rate in victims.

-Vlad Elizarov, Alexander’s Hope Intern


Red Cross