Talking to health care professionals is sometimes like trying to understand a foreign language in a strange place. And while AED’s are meant to be used by people without a medical background, there are still terms that are often difficult to understand. This glossary is meant to help shed some light on the most commonly used medical terms when talking about an AED.
AED in Medical Terms
AED – Short for Automated External Defibrillator, the AED is a medical device designed to administer concentrated electrical shocks to a person experiencing ventricular defibrillation.
AED Pads (Electrodes) – The sticky electrodes that conduct the electrical current from the AED directly into the patient’s heart. Most AED’s come with adult-sized electrodes or AED pads that can be used for children over the age 8 according to the directions that accompany the device.
Arrhythmia – Any change in a person’s heartbeat that is outside of the norm. Arrhythmias can happen when the heart beats too fast, too slow, or does not empty or fill completely.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) – A lifesaving procedure performed when a person’s heart stops beating. During CPR, rescuers use external force to cause the heart to push blood through the circulatory system until an AED can be used to restore their heart rate or medical personnel can arrive on the scene. You can save a life with CPR and AED.
Defibrillation – The process of using a controlled electrical current to help the heart resume beating normally. Medical professionals tend to use manual defibrillators that can be adjusted for the patient’s size and condition as well as the type of heartbeat they are experiencing. While this process requires extensive training, an AED can be used by anyone who can follow picture directions and voice commands.
Joules – The current used in an AED is expressed in Joules, or the amount of work associated with moving one amp of current, through one ohm of resistance, for one second. Typically, AED protocols begin with 200 Joules all the way up to 350 Joules.
Pulseless Ventricular Tachycardia – A condition when the lower chambers of the heart beat very quickly but not strong enough to effectively pump blood.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) – A medical condition in which a person experiences a sudden change in their heart rate. While SCA can happen in many forms, an AED is particularly effective at treating people who experience V-fib or PVT. While SCA affects more than 300,000 people each year, the likelihood of surviving this type of cardiac arrest is greatly improved when bystanders perform CPR and administer shocks from an AED.
Ventricular Fibrillation – A medical emergency that happens when the heart quivers in an erratic rhythm rather than beating steadily. Ventricular Fibrillation, also known as V-fib, is one of only two types of heartbeats that are considered “shockable rhythms” or conditions that can be treated with an AED. The other is Pulseless Ventricular Tachycardia.
Even if you don’t know everything there is to know about an AED, you likely know enough to potentially save a person’s life. Just be sure to follow the instructions included with your AED, should you be called upon to use it.