AED articles

How To Use An AED

How To Use An AED on Adults, Children, and Infants

Review our step by step instructions for using an automated external defibrillator to treat ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest.

Before using an AED device, you should:

  1. Confirm Sudden Cardiac Arrest
  2. Call 9-1-1 (emergency services / professional emergency responders) and retrieve the AED
  3. Begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
    1. Begin by giving 30 chest compressions 2 inches deep into the chest and 2 quick rescue breaths to the victim. The chest should expand making it clear that air is coming into the chest.
    2. Repeat the cycle (continue chest compressions up to 100 per minute).

How To Use An AED

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  1. Turn the AED on.
  2. Expose the victim’s bare chest and make sure it is dry.
  3. Remove any metal jewelry or accessories on the victim. Shave the person’s chest if hair is present. If the victim is a female with an underwire bra, remove it to prevent electrical conduction. Wipe the chest to remove moisture if needed.
  4. Apply the AED pads to the chest area. Learn more about AED pad placement here.
    1. Place one pad on the upper right side of the victim’s chest, just below the collarbone.
    2. Place the other pad on the lower left side of the victim’s chest. The lower left ribs below the armpit is the best location for placement on this side.
  5. If two rescuers are present, one person can perform CPR while the other is responsible for applying the pads correctly. However, if you are the only one near the victim, alternate between administering CPR and operating the AED.
  6. Follow the AED prompts
    1. Position the AED near the victim’s head and turn on the device. You’ll see either a button to turn on the AED, or simply be able to lift the lid in order to power it on. As the AED is turned on, it will display a series of prompts, such as how to attach the cables for the defibrillator pads into your AED, usually on top of the device. Follow these prompts.
  7. The AED machine will analyze the victim’s heart rhythm to see if an electrical shock is needed. The device will alert you if the CPR you’ve been doing prior to retrieving the device needs to continue. Make sure everyone stands clear and does not touch the victim.
  8. There are two possible prompts after the AED analyzes the heart’s rhythm:
    1. Shock Advised: The victim has no pulse. The AED delivers an electrical shock to restore the heart’s normal rhythm
    2. No Shock Advised: The victim has regained a pulse but is not moving or breathing. A shock from the AED is not needed. Continue with CPR until professional emergency responders or other healthcare providers arrive on the scene.
  9. Shock the victim.
  10. The AED has advised that you shock the victim. Shout “clear!” to ensure everyone stands clear of the victim. Then press the shock button on the AED. One electric shock will be delivered through the pads in an effort to restart the victim’s heart. You’ll see the victim move due to the shock’s force.
  11. After the shock, give 30 chest compressions and two breaths.
  12. Over the next two minutes, you’ll return to CPR, following a pattern of compressions and quick breaths. You may see the victim regain consciousness in this stage. After two minutes has passed, let the AED reanalyze for a heart rhythm. It can tell you if another shock is needed and if you need to stop CPR.

How To Use An AED on a Child

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  1. For children ages 1-8 or under 55lbs, after you’ve turned on the AED and exposed the victim’s chest, apply pediatric pads to the chest. In the event you don’t have pediatric pads, you may use an AED with adult pads.
  2. You can then follow the AED prompts, shock the victim as necessary, administer CPR and see if the device instructs you to shock the victim again upon another analysis. See above for more details on this process.

How To Use An AED on an Infant

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For infants (less than 1 year old), you’ll have a few extra considerations for operating an AED and administering CPR:

  1. Don’t shake them to see if they respond! Tap their feet or stroke them by the arm or head.
  2. Check the inside of the infant’s upper arm instead of checking the carotid artery on a child’s neck.
  3. Your rescue breaths for CPR need to be more delicate. Do not blow fully into the infant’s mouth and risk hurting their airways. Instead, blow from your cheeks, not a deep inhale and exhale.
  4. For check compressions, don’t use your full hand(s). Instead, take two fingers, place them in the center of the infant’s chest and compress about one and a half inches deep.

Your rhythm for performing CPR will be the same. Remember to use pediatric pads if at all possible but if one is not available, use an AED with adult pads and settings. You can learn more about using an AED on an infant here.

How To Use An AED On a Pregnant Woman

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If you’ve ever wondered if there are special instructions for AEDs on a pregnant woman, take a look at our detailed article walking through how to use an AED on a pregnanat woman.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest – Be Prepared

Heartsmart highly recommends taking a CPR class to earn a CPR certification from a certified CPR instructor, as well as pursuing automated external defibrillator (AED) certification. Cardiac arrests occur anywhere at any time. Proper training, preparation and emergency medical device placement can save a life.

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