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Education & Resources

AED Overview

Question: What is an AED?

Answer: AED stands for "Automatic External Defibrillator." An AED is used to administer an electric shock to a person who is having a cardiac arrest. AEDs are designed to allow non-medical personnel to save lives.

Q: How does an AED work?

A: Two pads, connected to the AED, are placed on the patient's chest. A computer inside the AED analyzes the patient's heart rhythm and determines if a shock is required to save the victim. If a shock is required, the AED uses voice instructions to guide the user through saving the person's life.

Needed AEDs

Q: Why do we need AEDs?

A: AEDs save lives. When a person has a sudden cardiac arrest ("SCA"), their heart's regular rhythm becomes chaotic or arrhythmic. Every minute that the heart is not beating lowers the odds of survival by 7% to 10%. After 10 minutes without defibrillation very few people survive.

Q: What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

A: Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart's normal heart rhythm suddenly becomes chaotic. The heart can no longer pump the blood effectively and the victim collapses, stops breathing, becomes unresponsive, and has no detectable pulse. When used on a victim of SCA, the AED can be used to administer a life-saving electric shock that restores the heart's rhythm to normal.

Q: Is SCA the same as a heart attack?

A: No. Both the heart attack (myocardial infarction) and a sudden cardiac arrest have to do with the heart, but they are different problems. SCA is an electrical problem; a heart attack is a "plumbing" problem. Sometimes a heart attack, which may not be fatal in itself, can trigger a sudden cardiac arrest.

Q: Who can have a SCA?

A: Anyone, anytime. Children can have SCAs, teenagers can have SCAs, athletes can have SCAs, old people can have SCAs. Although the risk of SCA increases with age and in people with heart problems, a large percentage of the victims are people with no known risk factors.

Q: What does the Heart & Stroke Foundation say about AEDs?

A: The Heart & Stroke Foundation strongly supports having AEDs in homes, workplaces, as well as public areas like airports, casinos, and airplanes. The foundation is also urging anyone in close contact with those at high-risk of cardiac arrest family members, police, firefighters, flight attendants, and security guards to become trained in the use of AEDs.

Click here to view the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada Position Statement on AEDs.


Treatment of SCA

Q: What is the recommended treatment for SCA?

A: Defibrillation is the only treatment proven to restore a normal heart rhythm.

Q: How much time do I have to respond if someone has a sudden cardiac arrest?

A: Only minutes. Defibrillate within 3 minutes and the chances of survival are 70%. After 10 minutes, the chances of survival are negligible.

Q: I know CPR; wouldn't it help?

A: CPR only buys a little more time – potentially giving the victim a small amount of extra time until a defibrillator arrives. But SCA ultimately requires a shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. As a result, most CPR training now also includes AED training.


Ease of Use

Q: Is an AED complicated to use?

A: AEDs are very easy to use. An AED can be used by practically anyone who has been shown what to do. In fact, there are a number of cases where people with no training at all have saved lives.

Q: Can a non-medical person make a mistake when using an AED?

A: AEDs are safe to use by anyone who has been shown how to use them. The AED's voice guides the rescuer through the steps involved in saving someone; for example, "apply pads to patient's bare chest" (the pads themselves have pictures of where they should be placed) and "press red shock button." Furthermore, safeguards have been designed into the unit precisely so that non-medical responders can't use the AED to shock someone who doesn't need a shock.

Q: Can the AED itself make a mistake?

A: It is unlikely. Studies show that AEDs interpret the victim's heart rhythm more quickly and accurately than many trained emergency professionals. If the AED determines that no shock is needed, it will not allow a shock to be given.

Q: Can I be sued if I help someone suffering from SCA?

A: Provincial and Federal "Good Samaritan" laws cover users who, in good faith, attempt to save a person from death. To date, there are no known judgments against anyone who used an AED to save someone's life.


Q: How often must I change batteries?

A: Your AED comes with a lithium battery pack with a pre-determined standby life of 4-7 years (depending on the model). If the unit is used frequently, the battery pack may have to be replaced more often. The AED will inform the user when the battery pack needs to be replaced.

Q: What else do I need to do to keep my AED in working order?

A: The pad package must be replaced every two years. Otherwise, the AED performs automatic self-checks on a regular basis to test its operational readiness. If anything is not fully functional, the unit will make a loud chirp and flash a red light warning the owner that servicing may be required.


Buying an AED

Q: What features should I look for in an AED?

A: Look for 1) an AED that is easy for non-medical people to use, 2) an AED that is technically reliable, and 3) one that is reasonably priced. All of the AEDs we offer more than meets all three requirements.

Q: What is your warranty?

A: Each manufacturer has their own specific warranty. Most have a 5 year warranty on the AED itself and a 4 year warrnanty on the battery. For more specific information please visit the individual product page.