How to use an automated external defibrillator following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
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How to use an automated external defibrillator following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

Elizabeth Simpson Nurse lecturer and Interprofessional Simulation Centre coordinator, Nursing and Community Health, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, Scotland

Rationale and key points

This article provides an overview of the skills required to safely and promptly deliver a defibrillatory shock to patients who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, using an automated external defibrillator (AED). Early defibrillation and use of an AED can significantly improve survival rates following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The principles, evidence and steps required to safely use an AED in the out-of-hospital environment discussed in this article, can be applied to any environment in which cardiac arrest occurs.

Patients who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest have a low survival rate without early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation.

The AED will provide voice and/or visual prompts to guide the rescuer in its use and the delivery of defibrillatory shocks.

It is important to reduce transthoracic impedance to achieve successful defibrillation, by shaving any chest hair, if possible, smoothly and carefully applying the adhesive electrode pads, and avoiding the patient’s breast tissue.

Reflective activity

‘How to’ articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence-based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

How this article might change your practice when using an AED.

Effective aspects of your current practice in relation to (CPR) and defibrillation, and those that could be enhanced.

Nursing Standard. 31, 32, 38-43. doi: 10.7748/ns.2017.e10784

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 22 August 2016

Accepted: 06 January 2017

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