Heart Month: Common AED Myths Debunked

Because AEDs can play such a significant role in saving someone’s life, we want to debunk some of the common myths that exist about their use and provide you with the real facts.

MYTH #1: You need training to use an AED.

FACT: The auditory feedback provided by modern AEDs makes them readily usable even by individuals who have not received formal AED training. AEDs are safe to use by people of all ages, even an untrained 4th grader can use one. Most AEDs have a voice-guided system that takes the user through a number of easy-to-follow, guided step by step instructions, supported by pictures. Some even provide CPR instructions as well. Heart Niagara offers AED training for those who want to feel more confident operating a defibrillator.

MYTH #2: AEDs are complex and difficult to use and can only be used by trained medical professionals

FACT: AEDs have come a long way over the years. Lay/minimally trained rescuers will find today’s AEDs much easier to use than those of earlier times, or as seen on TV shows. In addition, the devices are highly accurate in determining if a shock is warranted and will only deliver one if it is necessary. 

MYTH #3: Legally, I can’t use an AED on someone & owning or using an AED carries significant legal risk.

FACT: There is legislation in most provinces and territories across Canada to protect individuals who use AEDs from liability when they are used in the context of saving a life, so don’t be afraid to intervene! In Ontario, the Good Samaritan Act (2001) governs the liability of volunteer first aiders and states that except in the case of gross negligence, a volunteer first aider is not liable for any damages resulting from their actions or omissions in the provision of the first aid. In other words, you are protected from getting sued for any related injury or death. There is also liability protection for people using public automated external defibrillators, known as The Chase McEachern Act (2007), which protects individuals from liability for damages that may occur in relation to their use of an AED to save someone’s life at the immediate scene of an emergency. It protects the owners and occupiers of the buildings where AEDs are installed from liability that may occur in relation to the use of the AED, provided that the owner or occupier of the building made the AED available for use in good faith. Over the years, there has been a lot of reluctance by people to use AEDs for fear of potential litigation. The protection is intended to reduce bystanders’ hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death and to promote the use of public AEDs. To date, no known lawsuits have been brought against lay rescuers who provided CPR and/or AED use.

MYTH #4: I know CPR – that’s enough.

FACT: CPR is very important, but CPR alone is not enough. The odds of survival reduce by as much as 10% every minute the heart is not beating after a sudden cardiac arrest or cardiac event. The use of an AED along with CPR actually increases a person’s chances of survival by 75%. After 12 minutes without defibrillation, very few people survive. EVERY MINUTE COUNTS!

MYTH #5: If I use an AED on someone, I might get shocked too.

FACT: An AED cannot shock a person whose heart is in normal rhythm. Most AEDs will clearly tell you something along the lines of: “Stay clear of the patient” and will warn you not to touch the patient before pressing the shock button and administering the shock. Should you happen to have a hand on the patient while a shock is administered, you may feel a slight tingle. Proper placement of AED pads are unlikely to cause any harm. All you have to do is follow the prompts and you will be safe. If a person does not have a “shockable” rhythm, the AED will not allow the delivery of a shock.

MYTH #6: Medical personnel will arrive in time. Why would I bother owning an AED?

FACT: Never assume time is on your side. Remember, you only have minutes to act! In high-traffic urban areas, rush hour traffic may radically alter EMS arrival time. In rural areas, EMS have to travel long distances to reach you. By having an AED on site, you keep those around you and yourself safer.

MYTH #7: I can only use my AED once.

FACT: Most AEDs can administer a range of 30-440 shocks in their useable lifetime and a maximum of 4 shocks can be delivered during a rescue. The important thing to remember is that the pads and the batteries must be maintained and replaced in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations. Pads should be replaced every 2 years to ensure they are sticky enough to be adhesive on virtually anyone’s chest. Batteries should be changed every 5 years and AEDs should be replaced every 7-10 years.

MYTH #8: AEDs cannot be used on children.

FACT: AEDs can be modified to be safe for use on small children under the age of 8 or less than 55 lbs. It is recommended that you use specialized pads child keys which lower the amount of charge released by the AED. Purchasing an infant/child AED kit is a must for schools or daycares, and is highly recommended for any business where children may be present.

MYTH #9: An AED could unintentionally shock a victim.

FACT: It’s natural to be a little wary of anything that involves sending an electrical current through the body. However, an AED uses sophisticated software to analyze the victim’s heart rhythm and determine if a shock is required to restart the heart. The electrodes which attach to the victim’s chest relay information to a computer inside the AED that analyzes whether a shock is necessary. A shock is only delivered by the AED if deemed to be needed (a sudden cardiac arrest event is detected) and the “shock” button is pressed by the rescuer. The electrodes will deliver a shock to the body which stun the heart allowing it to reset to a normal heart rhythm. It’s important to back away from the victim if the AED indicates it’s about to deliver a shock. Receiving this shock to restart the heart is essential to survival as there is only a 3-5 minute window before most individuals begin to experience brain damage. The average EMS response time is 6-8 minutes in Niagara, meaning that having an AED onsite is crucial to both survival and neurological health.

MYTH #10: AEDs are expensive to purchase and difficult to maintain.

FACT: AED prices have dropped significantly in the last decade. Breaking it down, a typical AED — over ten years of ownership — ranges from $130–$300 per year to own. That is as little as $11 to $25 per month. That’s less than most people spend at the coffee shop in a week.

MYTH #11: Lay bystanders are required to perform mouth-to-mouth breathing.

FACT: Research has shown that people were reluctant to provide CPR because they were uncomfortable with providing mouth-to-mouth breathing to a stranger. However, “mouth-to-mouth”, is no longer a standard part of CPR for untrained rescuers as “hands-only” has been proven to work just as well in saving a person’s life.  

So, there you have it.. Take the mystery out of AEDs and they’re a whole lot more approachable. Placing AEDs in public places and encouraging their use by people in emergencies can have a profound impact on someone’s life sooner rather than later. If you have more questions about AEDs, are interested in taking AED training, want to purchase an AED or AED supplies, please call us today @905-358-5552! #HeartNiagara #AED #Myths&Facts  

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