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How does a portable defibrillator work? A portable defibrillator is truly an amazing piece of technology when you look at what it can do. When people ask about portable defibrillators, they’re generally talking about Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). Portable defibrillators can be found in a wide range of public places from cruise ships and airplanes, to sports arenas and high schools. To understand the answer to how does a portable defibrillator work, we will look first at its purpose. 

The purpose of a portable defibrillator

At its most basic - and incredible - level, a portable defibrillator is made to save lives. When someone suffers from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) outside of a hospital, a portable defibrillator is by far their best hope of survival. SCA is the abrupt loss of heart function, consciousness, and breathing. It is an extremely serious problem that leads to the death of about a quarter million people in the US every year. You may think this is a health condition that mostly affects older people, and you’d be right. However, keep in mind, that children and teens can be affected by SCA as well. 

How you can save someone with SCA

To understand how a portable defibrillator works, you’ll want to understand how it’s possible to save someone who has suffered SCA. During SCA, there is a problem with the heart’s rhythm. There are many different heart rhythm variations, and some of these can be treated by delivering an electric shock to the heart. The shock can correct the problematic rhythm, allowing the heart to restore its normal rhythm, and often saving the person’s life. A portable defibrillator is the machine that delivers the shock. 

How a portable defibrillator functions

A portable defibrillator, and more specifically an AED, is a small machine that is brought to the side of a person who may need its help. The machine will have adhesive pads that you put on the person’s chest. Those pads are connected to the defibrillator with electrodes. These electrodes sense the rhythm of the heart and send it to the machine for analysis. A computer within the AED analyzes the heart rhythm and decides if it is one that can be aided with a shock. If the answer is yes, the defibrillator delivers a shock to the heart, through the electrodes stuck to the person’s chest. If a rhythm is detected that cannot be helped with a shock, a good AED or portable defibrillator will know not to shock the person. 

Is a portable defibrillator better than CPR?

Yes, in many ways a portable defibrillator is better than CPR. CPR is an essential skill and can allow for blood circulation and breathing support after someone has had a sudden cardiac event. This, in some cases, can allow for enough time for First Responders to arrive and deliver life-saving treatment. However, CPR can NOT return a problematic heart rhythm to a healthy heart rhythm. Only the right electric shock can do this, which is why we see survival rates of SCA patients to be much higher when the correct shock is delivered vs when only CPR is used. If you’re in a situation where there is no portable defibrillator or AED available, CPR can be critical. 

When you can answer the question of “how does a portable defibrillator work?” the next question may be “why aren’t there more portable defibrillators around?” One piece of good news is there may be more than you think. Many public places now have portable defibrillators or AEDs. However, to expand access to these lifesaving machines even further, it’s important to lower cost and improve ease of use so that we can have the ability to save SCA victims anywhere, anytime. The right AED could even be affordable enough that millions of homes could have a device, especially if a family member is at higher risk for a cardiac event. 

Although using a portable defibrillator may sound intimidating, you can get training so that you can feel confident saving a life if you’re ever in a situation where you can. Stay tuned for announcements regarding a portable defibrillator that both lowers the cost of ownership and is incredibly easy to use, at rithemls.com

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