8 common myths about defibrillators and why they save lives

8 common myths about defibrillators and why they save lives

I seem to be continually battling with the misinformation that defibrillators are somehow frightening and could make the situation worse. This is so far from the truth, that it would be laughable, except that this misconception potentially costs lives.

Defibrillators are complicated! – They couldn’t be much easier! They speak to you and take you step by step through what you need to do to help save someone’s life. They are now available in so many public places and are easily accessible for the general public to grab and use as quickly as possible in a medical emergency.

You have to be medically trained to use them! – wrong! They are available for use by the general public. Ideally you would have received training in how to give the best CPR as this will make a huge difference and give them the best possible chance of survival. Using the defib is simple.

You are jump starting the heart! – You are not jump starting the heart. Quite the reverse, you are stopping the heart to allow the heart’s natural back-up system to take over and return it to normal sinus rhythm. Speed is of the essence – research has shown that the chances of survival for an out of hospital (community) cardiac arrest are only about 6%. If you can get the pads onto the patient’s chest within 3 minutes and they are in a shockable rhythm, the chances of survival jump to 74%. This drops by 10% for every minute’s delay in using the machine.

You could make things worse!You cannot use a defibrillator if the casualty does not need it! It will not let you – so apply the pads, switch on the machine, you simply can’t do anything wrong. If someone is unconscious and not breathing, if you don’t do anything they are dead.

A Defibrillator will always bring them back to life! – Sadly this is not the case. There are many reasons why someone may experience a sudden cardiac arrest and it is not possible to resuscitate everyone. However, good quality CPR, prompt use of a defibrillator and swift transfer to professional medical care, will give them the best possible chance.

You need to wait until the heart has stopped before using the machine! – Quite definitely not the case. The sooner you use the defibrillator the better their chances of survival.

They are expensive! – You can now get a quality defibrillator from us for less than £650.

Paramedics will always be there before I need to use it! – Sadly this is unlikely as our emergency services are hugely overstretched and it is highly unlikely they would ever be with you within 3 minutes.

Other common misconceptions about CPR and defibrillators:

It is no longer recommended to give breaths – WRONG, the UK Resuscitation Council still recommend breaths, along with compressions to give someone the optimum chance of survival. This is even more important with babies and children, who should ideally receive 5 rescue breaths before the compressions.

To give someone the best chance you should always give breaths if you are willing and able to do so. This is particularly important with children, as they do not retain oxygen in their system as adults do and so if you are just giving chest compressions, then you are merely pumping de-oxygenated blood around their system.

The British Resuscitation Council’s latest guidance 2015 recommends that trained first aiders should give breaths unless they are unwilling or unable to do so. The ambulance service will talk untrained first responders through chest compression only CPR as it is complicated teaching them to open the casualty’s airway and compressions are the most important element of life support.

For more information about defibrillators, read this article from our archive

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course or do one online.

For more information please email emma@firstaidforlife.org.uk


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