A defibrillator is arguably one of the most important medical machines of our time. A defibrillator is a device designed especially for saving lives – and it does just that, with dramatic results. Let’s take a closer look at the purpose and history of the defibrillator, the benefits of having access to defibrillators in public spaces, and the best brands to look out for when buying a defibrillator.
What is a Defibrillator?
A defibrillator, which is also called an AED (Automated External Defibrillator), is a device designed for one purpose: to defibrillate the heart. Fibrillation occurs during a cardiac arrest: cells in the heat begin to act like individual pacemakers, which means that they fall out of sync with one another. This leads to an irregular and increasingly fast heartbeat.
With a defibrillator, electrodes are attached to the chest over the heart, the heart is assessed for any irregularities (the defib will not function if there is not an issue with the heart) and an electrical current is passed through the heart. This shocks the heart cells and encourages defibrillation; it does not have a 100% success rate, but it does greatly improve a cardiac arrest patient’s chances of survival.
Cardiac arrest is one of the most deadly forms of medical emergency. 95% of cardiac arrest victims die on the way to the hospital; yet if a defibrillator is used within around 5 minutes of the incident, it can increase the patient’s chances of survival by up to 70%.
The initial moment following a cardiac arrest are the most crucial, as the chances of the patient’s survival drop by 10% with every minute that passes untreated. Once emergency services have been called, a defibrillator can literally be the difference between life and death.
A Brief History of the Defibrillator
The defibrillator dates back to the late 19th Century when two Swiss physiologists discovered that an electrical current of the correct voltage, passed through a fibrillating heart, could reverse the condition.
In the 20th Century – prior to defibrillation becoming a standard way to deal with cardiac arrest – drugs were usually injected into the heart in order to counteract the fibrillation process. In 1933, a scientist called Dr. Albert Hyman and an engineer called C. Henry Hyman realised the potential for a defibrillating device as a replacement for drug injections.
An external defibrillator, first invented by William Kouwenhoven, was first applied to a human in 1947 when it was used to save the life of a 14-year-old boy suffering from a heart condition. At this point, the defibrillator was applied to an open chest. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it was possible to use the defibrillator as we now do – upon a closed chest.
How to Use a Defibrillator?
If you’re interested in learning how to use defibrillators, what to look for in your patient is the first step. Signs that someone is having a cardiac arrest include chest tightness or pain, fatigue, dizziness, vomiting, trouble breathing, heart palpitations and fainting.
Modern day defibrillators are very easy to use, are equipped with instructions and are often voice-guided. They do not require official medical training to be able to operate effectively. There is a simply step-by-step procedure to follow when using a defib – British Heart Foundation has a comprehensive guide complete with video to make it super straightforward. Check out the BHF defibrillator guide today.
We are fortunate to live in an era where technology like the defibrillator exists: we literally have a device that can bring life where previously only death would have been expected. The HSE (Health, Safety, and Environment) Standards Agency don’t have much to say about the defibrillator, yet it remains one of the most valuable inventions in medical history.
There are many reasons why investing in a defibrillator for your workplace is a wise move – the most powerful of which being that it could save someone’s life.