When it comes to AEDs, it is important to know they are safe and simple devices which can save the life of someone in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). In fact, they are the only treatment for someone in SCA, and when used in conjunction with quality CPR a person’s chances for survival drastically increase. We decided to debunk some of the most common AED myths and set the record straight so if ever faced with an SCA emergency, you won’t be afraid to find the closest AED and use it.
Myth: You can shock someone with an AED as a joke or by mistake.
Fact: An AED will only shock someone when electrode pads are placed correctly on a patient in cardiac arrest and one of two specific rhythms are detected. You can not accidentally or intentionally shock a conscious, healthy person with a public access device AED.
Myth: Just like on TV, if someone goes into cardiac arrest, you can bring them back to life with CPR alone.
Fact: If someone is revived with CPR alone, chances are they were not actually in cardiac arrest, but instead they were suffering some other heart-related condition. The ONLY treatment for sudden cardiac arrest is defibrillation either with an AED or a defibrillator used in hospitals and by emergency medical professionals.
Myth: Only medical professionals can use an AED because you need special training to do it right.
Fact: Anyone who can read the visual directions and/or hear the verbal prompts can use an AED correctly and save a life!
Myth: Only old people go into sudden cardiac arrest.
Fact: Anyone, anywhere at any time can go into sudden cardiac arrest. It does not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity or fitness. Athletes, children, all races and both genders are equally at risk. In fact, 16 people under the age of 18 die every day from sudden cardiac arrest, and every 72 hours a young athlete’s life is ended by SCA.
Myth: A heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest are the same thing.
Fact: A heart attack is a plumbing problem caused by a blockage of the arteries in the heart, leading to the death of part of a heart’s muscle mass. Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical problem caused by the heart’s inability to beat correctly and pump blood to the brain and vital organs, causing the patient to become unconscious immediately due to oxygen deprivation.
Myth: You have to put your mouth on someone else’s mouth to do CPR correctly.
Fact: While breaths are needed in cases of child and infant CPR, “hands-only” CPR is completely acceptable if the rescuer is not confident in their ability to do rescue breaths effectively, or if they are worried about the hygiene of the person they are rescuing. NEVER let the fear of doing rescue breaths stop you from at least doing chest compressions until an AED or medical professionals arrive.
Myth: If you use an AED and the person dies anyway you can be sued for causing their death.
Fact: Good Samaritan laws exist in all states to provide protection for rescuers who act in good faith to help another person who is in a life-threatening situation such as sudden cardiac arrest. So while you may be sued (there is never any guarantee when it comes to litigiousness), you are protected.
Myth: An AED “jump starts the heart”.
Fact: An AED uses an electrical impulse to throw out the bad electrical impulses which are causing a chaotic rhythm in the heart so the heart’s sinus node can restart the heart on its own. So while electricity does, in fact, pass through the heart, it does not exactly jump start it like a battery.