AED 101

What is an AED?

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a safe and easy-to-use device that delivers a therapeutic electric shock to the heart as treatment for a victim in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). AEDs are mobile and often found on the walls of public venues and corporations across America, much like a fire extinguisher.

Why Do We Use AEDs? | Brief History of AEDs | AED Facts and Statistics | What is AED Certification? | How Do I Get AED, CPR & First Aid Certification? | What are AED Guidelines? | How to use an AED | Tools for AED

Automated External Defibrillator AE Ds

Why Do We Use AEDs?

During SCA, the heart stops suddenly. Ventricular fibrillation is a type of irregular heart rhythm and the most frequent cause of sudden cardiac death.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver shocks to the heart are the only immediate, emergency treatments for ventricular fibrillation.

Providing public access to AEDs is critical. They can be used on a victim of any age, and since they provide audio and visual cues, AEDs may be used by people with no prior medical training. To get people familiar and comfortable with using AED devices, training is available during CPR and First Aid certification classes, CPR renewal classes, and CPR instructor courses.

Brief History of AEDs

Claude Beck, professor at Case Western Reserve University, is considered by many to be the godfather of defibrillation. In 1947, he successfully used an electrical shock to restore a normal rhythm to the heart of a 14-year-old boy.

Professor John Anderson, founder of HeartSine Technologies, is credited with creating the first portable defibrillator in 1966 in Belfast. While this unit was portable, it was nothing like the AEDs we see today, as it weighed 110 pounds and was charged by a car battery.

It is unclear when exactly the first AED was invented. But it is suggested that Arch Diack, a surgeon out of Portland, Oregon, invented the first unit. Reports put 1980 as the probable year.

AED Facts and Statistics

What is AED Certification?

AED certification is an optional component offered when receiving CPR and First Aid certification. An AED skills test in front of an authorized CPR instructor is required. CPR and AED certification is for everyone, including healthcare providers, professional emergency responders, and community or workplace responders.

What is CPR Certification? Learn more at our CPR 101 page.

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AED Certification

How do I get AED, CPR & First Aid Certification?

CPR and AED are easy skills to learn. But many people aren’t sure where to get CPR classes that offer AED certification. To get certified in AED, contact a national training agency to locate and schedule a class with an instructor in your area. You may need to go to the instructor’s location or, if you have a group, an instructor can come to your location. Nationally recognized training agencies that offer CPR instructor courses include:

The typical CPR and AED course is about four hours long and requires skills practice and skills testing to receive certification. More thorough and reputable programs also require a written exam.

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CPR training for your business manikin

What are AED Guidelines?

AED protocols are established from new CPR guidelines that come from a wealth of international resources. The International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) was formed in 1992 to provide a forum for communication between principal resuscitation organizations worldwide. Various CPR-related authorities gather and review research to identify what works to improve cardiac arrest outcomes.

Previously, CPR guidelines were updated every five years with the most favorable research and science. However, in 2015, this process transitioned to an online format that uses a continuous evidence evaluation process rather than periodic reviews. These continuously updated guidelines are used to develop new teaching materials and techniques for rescuers.

Current members of ILCOR include:

How To Use an AED

The sooner an AED is used the more likely it will work. AEDs are easy to use. Simply press the power button and follow the verbal prompts:

  • Bare the victim’s chest.
  • Apply sticky pads (electrodes) that come with the AED to the victim’s bare chest. The pads have simple diagrams for placement.
  • Press the shock button when prompted and after you’ve checked to see that no one is touching the victim.
  • Resume CPR after the shock.

Remember that if an AED is not present, the sooner 9-1-1 is called the earlier professional rescuers will arrive with a defibrillator of their own.

How To Get Certified To Teach CPR

The Tools for AED

HSI offers a wide range of tools necessary for the safe and effective use of AEDs. Visit our online store to find the items that best suit your needs:

AED Units

AED Units

AED Packages

AED Packages

AED Trainers & Supplies

AED Trainers & Supplies

Additional Sources

Mayo Clinic Health Library

Circulation, Vol. 147, No.8, Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2023 Update

Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2023 Update

International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR)

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