Choosing the right external defibrillator

A defibrillator is a medical device whose function is to restore a normal heart rhythm by sending an electric shock through electrodes placed on the skin of a victim in cardiac arrest (myocardial infarction). The device makes it possible to intervene quickly and thus increase the chances of survival in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. It’s generally a lightweight, portable, battery-operated device.

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  • 1/ What are the different types of defibrillators?

    There are two main types of defibrillators: semi-automatic defibrillators and fully automatic defibrillators. Both emit voice instructions that guide the user, step by step, through the entire process (performing cardiac massage, positioning electrodes, etc.).

    • Semi-automatic external defibrillators: the specificity of semi-automatic defibrillators is that the electric shock is only applied when the user presses a button at the request of the device that has identified that this is necessary.

    Semi-automatic external defibrillator

    Automatic external defibrillator

  • 2/ What are the criteria for choosing a defibrillator?

    When choosing a defibrillator, it’s important to take several factors into account, such as how easy the device is to use, whether or not it has Wi-Fi connectivity, its size, durability, reliability, speed and cost.

    • Ease of use: it is crucial to choose a defibrillator with simple icons/images and understandable verbal instructions. Clear visual and audio cues help users stay focused.
      Preferably choose a device with automatic assistance features. Certain defibrillators can be configured to automatically alert the user as soon as the device is ready to apply the first electrical discharge.
    • Wi-Fi connectivity: present in some defibrillator models, This feature is very useful, as it allows first responders to have access to precise cardiac arrest data before they even arrive at the scene. This way, they can see the details of the shocks administered and view the patient’s electrocardiogram (ECG).
    • Size and durability: most public places have a small defibrillator, which can be installed and used even when space is limited. It is recommended to choose a device with an IP56 rating, the highest degree of protection against dust and water for these devices, in order to ensure greater durability.
    • Reliability and operability:
      The reliability of the defibrillator is crucial to guaranteeing its correct operation in emergency situations.
      As such, it is of the utmost importance to choose devices from renowned brands in the field of cardiology.
      Sometimes, when it’s time to use the defibrillator, the battery isn’t charged or it’s not in place. To avoid this type of problem, you can opt for a connected model or one with automatic alarms, which will issue a warning if the device is not operational (flat battery, missing electrodes, malfunction, etc.).
    • Speed:
      You should opt for a device that starts up and charges quickly, i.e. that is ready to deliver the defibrillation shock in the shortest possible time.
    • Cost:
      In addition to the price of the defibrillator, it is important to take into account the cost of maintaining the device and the price of consumables (see question 5).
  • 3/ What consumables are used with a defibrillator?

    To use a defibrillator, you need consumables such as a battery and paddles (electrodes). Regular checks of these consumables are essential to ensure that the defibrillator is always operational.

    • Battery: the battery in a defibrillator lasts an average of five years. It must be recharged after each use so that the device is always in working order.
    • Paddles / electrodes: the paddles are used to measure the heart rate and deliver electric shocks. They are disposable, which means they must be replaced immediately after each procedure. They have a lifespan of two to five years. If they are not used, they must be replaced when they reach their expiration date.
      For children up to eight years old and weighing less than 25 kg, child paddles should be used.

    Electrodes for defibrillators

  • 4/ What standards are defibrillators subject to?

    According to Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices, only CE-marked defibrillators can be marketed in Europe. Defibrillators are class III devices.

    In the United States, defibrillators have to be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

    In many countries, such as France, the law requires establishments that receive the public to have an external defibrillator.

  • 5/ What is the price of a defibrillator and how much does maintenance cost?

    An automatic external defibrillator will cost:

    • between 400 and 1,500 euros for adult models;
    • between 400 and 2,000 euros in the case of models that can be used for both adults and children;
    • between 300 and 1,200 euros if it is a training defibrillator (for fire stations, first aid training centers and other certified entities);
    • around 300 euros for a pocket defibrillator.

    Replacing the pads / electrodes and the battery can cost between 25 and 350 euros, depending on the defibrillator model.

  • 6/ Who can use an external defibrillator?

    As a general rule, you don’t need to be a healthcare professional to use a defibrillator – anyone can.

    In conjunction with cardiac massage, the use of a defibrillator substantially increases the chances of survival of a person in cardiopulmonary arrest. Therefore, the most important thing is for anyone who witnesses the event to quickly start the chain of survival and follow the instructions given by the defibrillator to the letter.

    Although it is not essential to be trained to use an AED, it is recommended, because a person who knows how to use the device will be able to intervene more quickly and effectively in a real emergency, while the ambulance is not arriving.

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