Precautionary Measures when Using Defibrillators

The term defibrillator refers to the use of an automatic external defibrillator for the purpose of sending an electric shock through the chest of a victim suffering from cardiac arrest.  Based on data from the American Heart Association, about 95% of heart attack patients die before they reach the hospital. However, if defibrillation is performed within five to seven minutes, the rate of survival goes by thirty to forty five percent.  While the device is considered a life saving, there are certain precautions that need to be addressed when using it.


The goal of performing defibrillation on a patient is to correct the underlying potentially fatal arrhythmia that occurred because of an acute cardiac episode.  In order for the procedure to be effective, it needs to be performed at once or at least within five to seven minutes after the patient experiences symptoms like irregular heart rhythms indicated by zero response or an absence of pulse in the patient. What the defibrillator essentially does is it reboots the heart’s electrical impulse so it is able to regain control of the rhythm.

Use of Paddles

Defibrillation is contraindicated on anyone that is conscious or has a pulse as this can cause immediate cardiac arrest.  Philips AED pads should not be placed directly on the chest of the patient or on top of an internal pacemaker.  The correct installation would be on the lower left and upper sides or lower right and upper left portion of the patient’s chest.

Other Important Precautions

The patient’s chest needs to be completely dry for defibrillation to be effective. If the patient suffers cardiac arrest in a pool or outside in wet weather, he or she must first be taken to a dry area and the chest dried prior to commencing any defibrillation procedure.

The chest of the patient must also not have any nitroglycerin patches that can cause an explosion if it gets in contact with the defibrillator. The patient should not lie on any conductive surface or any metal or sheet metal contact that can transmit the shock to nearby persons.  Never touch a patient undergoing defibrillation to avoid electrical shock.