A defibrillator is a device used to shock the heart back into a regular pattern when the heartbeat increases due to ventricular defibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. Both of these conditions are life threatening and cause the person to lose consciousness when the heart stops beating and pumping blood to the body. At this point the person goes into what is called cardiac arrest. At one time the use of a defibrillator was limited to a hospital and could only be used by a doctor. However, there are now automatic external defibrillators that can be used in emergency cases where a medical professional is not available.
You do have to be trained to use a defibrillator because there is some risk to the person operating the device and others around him/her if either of them touches the patientís body at the same time the shock is delivered. Other health risks include skin burns to the patient from the electrodes, abnormal heart rhythms and blood clots. If a patient has a pulse, no matter how weak, a defibrillator should never be used. It should never be used where the patient has to remain close to other people who may be touching some part of the patientís body.
Cases in which defibrillation might be used:
Ventricular fibrillation is a serious condition in which the normal electrical activity of the heart gets out of order. The lower chambers of the heart contract rapidly and in an irregular fashion. As a result the ventricles do not beat. Instead they flutter and the heart pumps very little blood, if any at all. When this happens to a person, he/she needs medical help immediately. If not collapse or sudden death could occur within minutes. A defibrillator has to be used to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.
Ventricular fibrillation occurs when lower chambers of the heart contract rapidly and in an irregular fashion. Instead of beating in a normal pattern, the heart flutters and pumps very little or no blood to the brain. This causes the victim to collapse since the heart stops beating. Unless a defibrillator is used within minutes of the attack, the patients may die. If it happens in a hospital, then a defibrillator is close by. When it happens in the street or at home, those who are near the victim should call for help immediately.
Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death and two out of three deaths occur before the patient reaches the hospital. While heart attacks can be cured with medication and surgery to remove the blockages, the only way to treat sudden cardiac arrest is by using a defibrillator.
This site provides information various aspects of defibrillation. Articles include:
What is a defibrillator: This article explains what a defibrillator is, how it is used, covers the different types of defibrillators, and also covers a little about how these devices are used today compared to their use and accessibility in the past.
What is ventricular fibrillation: Ventricular fibrillation is a serious condition in which the normal electrical activity of the heart gets out of order. This article covers the risk factors and explains what it is and which aspects or symptoms are controllable.
What is sudden cardiac arrest and is it the same as a heart attack: This article differentiated between these two conditions, explaining how they differ and why the treatment required also differs.
How is ventricular fibrillation treated: This article covers the treatment required for ventricular fibrillation, and also offers advice and tips and the measures you need to take it you find yourself with someone that has suffered a cardiac arrest.
How is a defibrillator used: This article provides details on how these devices are used and how they work. You can learn more about the dos and doníts of the defibrillation process.
Defibrillator FAQ: This provides a run down of some of the more commonly asked questions about defibrillation, and also provides detailed answers for easy reference.
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