What is a Defibrillator?

Frequently asked questions regarding Defibrillators

Sudden Cardiac arrest is a life threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping (beating) due to an heart’s electrical system malfunction. The heart’s electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs.

Cardiac arrests are caused by certain types of arrhythmias that prevent the heart from pumping blood. Without the blood circulation the cells are not able to receive the oxygen they need.

Due to this lack of oxygen to your cells, sudden cardiac arrest can turn fatal in just a matter of minutes, so Immediate help is essential to increase your survival possibilities. Without immediate treatment, approximately 90 -95% of SCA’s are fatal.

SCA is an electrical problem whereas a heart attack is circulatory.

A person experiencing a SCA will collapse suddenly, lose consciousness and show no signs of breathing. Someone experiencing a heart attack will have chest pain, shortness of breath and feel weak and unwell. Defibrillators are not effective in the event of a heart attack, unless the heart attack leads to a cardiac arrest.

When a cardiac arrest occurs, the individual will lose consciousness and their breathing will become abnormal or stop. Cardiac arrest can happen at any age and at any time.

Possible causes of a SCA include: Heart and circulatory disease (such as a heart attack that than leads to a cardiac arrest or cardiomyopathy), loss of blood, trauma (such as a traumatic compression to the area directly over the heart), electrocution, sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (referred to as SADS that is often caused by a genetic congenital defect).

Emergency treatment includes performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation CPR and defibrillation. Performing CPR keeps enough oxygen in your lungs and gets it to your brain until an electric shock restores a normal heart rhythm. In the event of a SCA immediately start performing CPR and use a defibrillator as this may save the life or improve your chance of survival of the casualty.

Without immediate treatment, 90-95% of sudden cardiac arrests are fatal. According to the British Heart Foundation, 130,000 people in the UK suffer from SCA every year. According to the resuscitation council UK, the overall out of hospital chance of survival in the UK is 8%, so approximately 10,400 lives are saved yearly thanks to Automated External Defibrillators and the action of a bystander .

When the heart beats in an irregular heart rhythm, a shock from a defibrillator is required within 10 minutes from the collapse. This shock allows the heart to restart in a regular rhythm. Delivering a shock within 3-5 minutes after the casualty has occurred is the optimum as it increases their survival chance (rate) by almost 70%. Research has shown that an individual’s chance of survival following the onset of a cardiac arrest decreases by 7–10% for every minute of delay in commencing treatment.

It is a device that gives a high energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest. This high energy shock is called defibrillation, and it’s an essential part in trying to save the life of someone who’s in cardiac arrest.

There are three common types of defibrillators, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) and Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator (WCD).

Different types of defibrillators work in different ways. AEDs are in public spaces and were developed to save the lives of people suffering from SCA. Untrained bystanders are able to use these devices.

ICD’s are surgically placed inside the body, and WCD’s rest on the body. These devices are used to prevent death among people who have a high risk of arrhythmia. ICD’s and WCD’s can only be used by medical trained professionals

A defibrillator that can be used by an untrained person may also be called a in general terms a defib, an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) or a PAD (Public Access Defibrillator). A public access defibrillator works by checking the person’s heart rhythm once the defibrillator pads are placed on their chest and giving them a shock only if needed. Defibrillators can be used on adults or children over one year old.

Although Defibrillators are easy to operate so that anybody can use them without a specific training, training someone in how to use a defibrillator will make sure that they can act quickly and confidently in an emergency situation as they will be already familiar with the device.

The majority of first aiders in the UK will have had CPR and basic use of a defibrillator (AED) training as part of their course.

There are specific AED training courses available tailored to different industries, work places and users. Primary Care Supplies has partnered with some of the UK’s leading training companies to offer this option to our clients when purchasing a unit: Please visit our training courses page

If someone has a SCA the first thing to do is to call 999 and talk to the ambulance service, start CPR immediately and follow the instruction given by the operator. The national location of AED’s are registered in national defibrillator network, the operator will notify you of the nearest device to you if you are not alone ask someone to go and get it for you so that CPR can be not interrupted.

Defibrillators are normally located in workplaces and public spaces like airports, schools, shopping centres, community centres, train stations and disused BT telephone boxes.

Defibrillation can help save lives, but to be effective, it should be delivered as part of the chain of survival.

There are four stages to the chain of survival, and these should happen in order.

When carried out quickly, they can drastically increase the likelihood of a person surviving a cardiac arrest.

They are: 1. Early recognition and call for help. Dial 999 to alert the emergency services. The emergency services operator can stay on the line and advise on giving CPR and using an AED.

  1. Early CPR – to create an artificial circulation. Chest compressions push blood around the heart and to vital organs like the brain. If a person is unwilling or unable to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, he or she may still perform compression-only CPR.
  2. Early defibrillation – to attempt to restore a normal heart rhythm and hence blood and oxygen circulation around the body. Some people experiencing a cardiac arrest will have a ‘non-shockable rhythm’. In this case, continuing CPR until the emergency services arrive is paramount.
  3. Early post-resuscitation care – to stabilise the patient. Anyone is capable of delivering stages 1 to 3 at the scene of the incident. However, it is important to emphasise that life-saving interventions such as CPR and defibrillation (stages 2 and 3) are only intended to help buy time until the emergency services arrive, which is why dialling 999 is the first step in the chain of survival.

Unless the emergency services have been notified promptly, the person will not receive the post-resuscitation care that they need to stabilise their condition and restore their quality of life (stage 4). The chain as a whole is only as strong as its weakest link. Defibrillation is a vital link in the chain and, the sooner it can be administered, the greater the chance of survival. 

The sales of defibrillators is not restricted in the UK so anyone can buy a unit even to install in their own home and learn how to use in the case of need. We always recommend to read fully the user manual and learn the basic of the use of an AED.

More and more households are considering the purchase of a defibrillator to protect family and friend in the event of a cardiac arrest. Modern AEDs are inexpensive, simple to operate and safe for users and this is turning these devices into household equipment. The cost of a defibrillator is not much more than a television, a quality smartphone, a laptop, a game console or any piece of technology equipment present in many homes with the difference that these can hugely increase the chances to save the life of family member in the event of a SCA

There are a variety of brands and models of AED available in the UK. Primary Care Supplies have selected the very best and most popular devices available worldwide. Based on features and benefits these units cost can vary from £700 to £1400. Visit our product page to find the best unit to suit your requirements.