When someone’s heart stops, every second counts. A swift response can mean the difference between life and death. This guide will walk you through performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) – two critical skills that can save lives during cardiac emergencies.

How Do You Perform CPR With an AED

CPR with an AED involves performing chest compressions and breaths, then using the AED to analyze the heart’s rhythm. If a shockable rhythm is detected, the AED will instruct you to administer a shock. You’ll continue CPR until emergency services arrive or the AED advises differently, always following the device’s voice prompts.

Understanding CPR and AED

CPR and AED are two key elements in the chain of survival during a cardiac arrest:

  • CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a life-saving technique that involves chest compressions and rescue breaths. It helps maintain blood flow to the brain and heart when the heart has stopped beating.
  • AED, or automated external defibrillator, is a device that analyzes the heart’s rhythm and can deliver an electric shock to restore a normal rhythm in case of certain types of cardiac arrest.

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing CPR

Here’s how to perform CPR:

  • Ensure the scene is safe: Before you start, make sure the scene is safe for both you and the victim.
  • Check for responsiveness: Shake the victim gently and ask loudly, “Are you okay?”
  • Call for help: If the person is unresponsive, call your local emergency number immediately or ask someone else to do it.
  • Begin chest compressions: Place the heel of one hand in the center of the person’s chest. Place your other hand on top, interlocking your fingers. Press down hard and fast — aim for at least 2 inches deep at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
  • Perform rescue breaths: After 30 compressions, give two rescue breaths. Tilt the person’s head back, lift the chin, pinch the nose shut, and breathe into their mouth.

Remember, if you’re untrained or uncomfortable performing rescue breaths, you can perform hands-only CPR, which involves only chest compressions.

How to Use an AED

Alt tag: Image of an Automated External Defibrillator in a gym

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Using an AED is simpler than it might seem, as the device guides you through the process with visual and audio instructions. Here’s a basic rundown:

  • Turn on the AED: This usually involves opening the lid or pressing a button.
  • Attach the pads: Place one pad on the right side of the chest, below the collarbone. Place the other pad on the lower left side of the chest.
  • Let the AED analyze: Once the pads are attached, the AED will begin analyzing the heart rhythm. During this time, everyone must stay clear of the patient.
  • Follow the AED’s instructions: If a shock is advised, the AED will tell you to press the shock button. Ensure no one is touching the patient before delivering the shock.

Coordinating CPR and AED Use

When an AED becomes available, it’s crucial to integrate its use with ongoing CPR:

  • Continue CPR until the AED is ready for use: Don’t interrupt chest compressions until the AED pads are applied and ready to analyze.
  • Pause CPR for rhythm analysis: Everyone must stand clear while the AED analyzes the heart rhythm.
  • Resume CPR immediately after shock delivery or if no shock is advised: After a shock is delivered, or if no shock is advised, immediately resume CPR, starting with chest compressions.

Safety Considerations

Safety should always be a priority when using an AED:

  • Don’t use an AED in water: Make sure the patient is on a dry surface and dry their chest before applying the AED pads.
  • Be aware of implanted devices: If the patient has a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator, don’t place the AED pad directly over the device.

Maintenance of AEDs: Ensuring Your Equipment Is Ready

The maintenance of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) is a critical component in ensuring that the equipment is ready for use during a cardiac emergency. Let’s delve into the details of maintaining an AED:

1. Regular Inspection

AEDs should be inspected regularly to ensure they are in proper working order. This includes:

  • Visual Inspection: Check for any visible damages, wear, or other abnormalities.
  • Status Indicators: Many AEDs have visual or auditory indicators that signal the device’s readiness. Ensure these are showing the correct status.
  • Accessibility: Make sure the AED is easily accessible and not obstructed.

2. Battery Monitoring

The battery is a critical component of the AED:

  • Check Expiry Dates: Batteries have a limited shelf life. Always be aware of and adhere to the expiry dates.
  • Regular Testing: Some AEDs run self-tests, but manual checks should also be done to ensure that the batteries are charged.

3. Electrode Pad Replacement

Electrode pads also have an expiration date:

  • Regular Inspection: Check the pads’ expiry dates and ensure that they are sealed and undamaged.
  • Timely Replacement: Replace the pads before they expire, so the device is always ready for use.

4. Software Updates

Manufacturers may release software updates to comply with new guidelines or improve functionality:

  • Stay Informed: Register the AED with the manufacturer to receive updates and notices.
  • Follow Manufacturer Guidelines: Apply updates as directed by the manufacturer.

5. Record Keeping

Maintaining records of inspections and maintenance is vital:

  • Log Inspections: Keep a detailed log of all inspections, replacements, and updates.
  • Compliance: Ensure that maintenance complies with local regulations and guidelines.

6. Training

Those responsible for maintenance should be properly trained:

  • Understand the Device: Training should include understanding the specific model of AED and how to maintain it.
  • Regular Refreshers: Offer refresher CPR courses to ensure that skills and knowledge stay up to date.

This table serves as a concise summary of the critical aspects of AED maintenance. It covers what needs to be done, a description of each task, how often it should be performed, and any additional notes or considerations that may be relevant. Of course, specific details might vary based on the exact model of AED or local regulations, so always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines and applicable laws.

Maintenance TaskDescriptionFrequencyNotes
Visual InspectionCheck for visible damage, status indicators, and accessibilityWeekly/MonthlyFollow the manufacturer’s guidelines
Battery MonitoringInspect the battery’s charge level and expiration dateMonthlyReplace as needed or per manufacturer’s instructions
Electrode Pad ReplacementCheck the condition and expiration date of the padsMonthlyReplace before the expiration date
Software UpdatesApply updates as released by the manufacturerAs NeededRegister the AED to receive notifications
Record KeepingLog all inspections, replacements, and updatesOngoingMaintain a detailed log to ensure compliance
TrainingEnsure that those responsible for maintenance are trained and refreshed on the specific AED modelAnnuallyInclude both initial training and refreshers

Training and Certification

While this guide provides a basic understanding of CPR and AED use, it’s important to undergo proper training to gain comprehensive knowledge and practical skills. Many organizations offer CPR and AED certification courses, often combined with first aid training.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can anyone use an AED?

Yes, anyone can use an AED. The devices are designed to be user-friendly, providing visual and audio prompts to guide the user through the process.

2. Can I hurt someone with an AED?

AEDs are designed to prevent harm. They will only advise a shock if they detect a life-threatening rhythm that can be corrected by defibrillation.

3. How often should I perform CPR compressions?

You should aim to perform at least 100-120 chest compressions per minute.

4. Is it safe to perform CPR and use an AED on a pregnant woman?

Yes, it’s safer to perform CPR and use an AED than to do nothing. In cardiac arrest, the best chance of survival for both the mother and the unborn baby is immediate CPR and rapid defibrillation.

5. Should I remove a person’s clothing before using an AED?

Yes, the person’s chest should be bare and dry before you apply the AED pads. This ensures good adhesion and electrical contact.


The combination of CPR and AED can significantly improve the chances of survival during cardiac emergencies. By familiarizing yourself with these life-saving techniques, you can be ready to step in when every second counts.