The Defibrillator For You

By: James Monahan

Well, it's a big word. Defibrillation. Defibri-what? Defibrillation. And while you can shrug it off as something that doesn't concern you, it could be something that could endanger your life. So listen up.

Defibrillation is not just a big word. You need to act upon it. For that, you need a defibrillator. Another big word. Defibrillator.

"What the heck is that?" You ask. Well, a defibrillator counters the illness of heart defibrillation. It's a heart condition where your ventricular muscles are all uncoordinated (or, in your vocabulary, the term is "out-of-whack"), pumping blood randomly and erratically, turning your whole circulatory system out of whack. It's an ugly thought, we know. That's why modern science has brought about the defibrillator.

The defibrillator is used either implanted into or outside the heart. It sends electrical shocks to the heart that resets its electrical state, letting it beat to the rhythm controlled to our pacemaker cells.

Don't worry, the defibrillator won't send your heart into a state of perpetual shock. It only goes into action when it senses an irregular heartbeat.

The implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD) is more commonly used for high-risk patients that have erratic and often unexpected ventricular contractions.

This type of defibrillator has the capabilities then to administer immediate shocks to counteract ventricular fibrillation because it actively monitors the patient's rhythm, pulse rate, and wave form. The external defibrillator is more commonly used in hospitals and ambulances.

But the automated external defibrillator has been found outside the medical world as well as they have become safer, cheaper, and more convenient to use.

The automated external defibrillator is designed to be handled like a briefcase, allowing you to keep it in the trunk of your car, or in your office, or any place where you might need to use it.

You can expect this self-contained defibrillator to have a battery, electrodes, and a control computer inside of it. This defibrillator's control computer has the ability to diagnose the patient and administer the electric shocks according to the appropriate shock levels required.

This kind of defibrillator also relies on biphasic defibrillation, which alternates the direction of the pulses. As a result the energy level required for the defibrillator to function is greatly decreased, greatly decreasing risks of burns and myocardial damage.

An important part of the defibrillator is the pair of electrodes used. There are two kinds of electrodes for this function being used today. One is applied as an adhesive pad, and the other requires gel to be put on before its application.

The former is more convenient as there is no mess to clean up after treatment through the defibrillator. However, the latter is safer as it decreases risk of burns. Wet-gel electrodes are more even conductors of electricity into the body.

There are also different methods on using the defibrillator, according to where you place your electrodes during the treatment.

There is the anterior-posterior scheme, where you place one electrode just below the heart, and the other, on, the back, in between the scapula, and just behind the heart region.

The more inconvenient scheme is the anterior-apex scheme. The anterior electrode is placed below the clavicle on the right. And the apex electrode? Below the left side of the chest (pectoral) muscle.

Suffice to say you've more than just learned a new word. You've learned much about the whole process of defibrillation. So you don't have to be so intimidated by this term anymore. Just take the matter to heart.

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James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about defibrillators.

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