What you need to know about using an AED in a cardiac emergency

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 10:30 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - After collapsing on the field during Monday Night Football, crews used an AED to help resuscitate Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. So what happens if you find yourself in an emergency situation and have never used an AED before?

Dr. Ryan Hollenbeck, is a cardiologist at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. One big thing he said was that even if you’ve never used an AED, the device will talk you through you step by step on how to run it.

“Yeah, sure so, these things are designed to be really easy to use and self-explanatory. The most important thing about using one of these is knowing where they’re located so you know, especially if you’re you know, a coach or something like that. Or, you know, even at your place of work, just know where these are located because if you can’t find it, it’s not very useful. Once you find it, take it to the patient, you just turn it on and all of these have step-by-step audible cues that walk you through how to use it,” said Dr. Hollenbeck.

Dr. Hollenbeck emphasized the importance of being able to use an AED in an emergency.

“Yeah, so when someone has a cardiac arrest and their heart’s not beating one of the common causes is a rhythm disorder that causes the heart not to beat. And so that, fortunately, is a reversible cause. So if that rhythm disorder is detected and treated rapidly, then the amount of time their heart is at standstill is reduced, and so getting somebody defibrillated or shocked as quickly as possible is one of the key parts of resuscitation,” he said.

He said they can be life-saving.

“100% Yes, this is like I said. Cardiac arrest due to a lethal arrhythmia, like ventricular fibrillation, that’s one of the things we can actually fix and stop with defibrillation. You can shock them, terminate the arrhythmia, get their own pulse back and the shortest amount of time possible that they’re without a pulse, the better,” he said. “I’ll just reiterate that you can’t use these things unless you know where they’re located. So probably a good reminder for all of us to take a minute next time you go to work or wherever you exercise, things like that and just scan the facility and see where these things are because, you know, hopefully, you’ll never need to use one, but it’s one of the things that if you do need it, you need it, right away and you got to know where it’s at,” said Hollenbeck.

As Dr. Hollenbeck said, when it comes to a cardiac emergency time is of the essence. He said if you’re not sure if you should be using an AED, call for help. Then, take time to asses the patient.

If they don’t have a pulse, that’s when you send someone for the AED and start CPR.