Defibrillator: FSA Eligibility
What is a defibrillator and how does it work?
A defibrillator is a device that delivers a jolt of electricity to the patient's chest to correct cardiac arrest and the specific arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) that cause the heart's electrical system to malfunction. As multiple parts of the heart's pacemaker begin to beat erratically, the heart cannot rhythmically contract to continue pumping blood throughout the body, which can be fatal if it is not corrected. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is typically used in these situations to deliver a measured electrical shock to the chest cavity using a series of electrodes. The AED shock will stop the heart for just a moment so it can restart its healthy, rhythmic contraction.
Along with the nearly ubiquitous AED, the other most common defibrillator is the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This small device is designed for patients who have irregular heartbeats, also called arrhythmias, and it is implanted in the chest and utilizes electric shocks to jolt the heart back into its normal rhythmic contraction. An ICD is similar to a pacemaker, but pacemakers emit a much lower energy of electrical pulse to treat minor heart issues, while ICDs can act as both pacemakers and defibrillators.
The value of a defibrillator
In the event of sudden cardiac arrest, the chances of survival with CPR are just 5 percent, but when used in tandem with an AED, the odds of survival jump significantly to 75 percent. Defibrillators were confined to hospitals for much of the 20th century until 1965 when Professor Frank Pantridge from Northern Ireland developed the first portable, battery-powered defibrillator.
Even though it was bulky and could weigh almost 150 lbs., Pantridge's defibrillator could be transported in an ambulance and gave first responders invaluable extra minutes to administer care and save countless lives in the process. Today, modern AEDs are as ubiquitous as fire extinguishers and found in millions of public places. They are designed for ease of operation so that anyone can provide life-saving care in an emergency situation (National Center for Biotechnology Information).