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5 TV Shows with AEDs – and Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

TV Shows with AEDs and Why Using an AED Doesnt Work Like That Image

5 TV Shows with AEDs – and Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

How many times have you sat down to binge a Netflix show and seen a beloved character using an AED to save someone’s life? AEDs are wonderful life-saving devices that, if used properly, have the potential to save someone suffering from a cardiac arrest. But when watching TV shows with AEDs, Hollywood doesn’t always get it right. Take a look at these 5 TV shows with AEDs and why using an AED doesn’t quite work like that!


1. House M.D.



One of Dr. House’s patients is crashing, and Dr. Cameron is doing everything she can to help. Suddenly, the patient (who is being treated at home because he is agoraphobic – much to House’s displeasure) begins to have a ‘heart attack.’ House instructs Cameron to perform CPR while he makes a call. She instead refuses to give CPR and insists on getting the paddles and using an AED. House then makes a quick phone call and informs the patient’s lawyer that the patient is having a ‘heart attack.’ House begins compressions as the patient’s heart monitor starts flat-lining. Cameron begins to yell at House telling him that the patient is dying and they need to get the paddles on right away. She finally jumps in, tells House to stay clear and then delivers a shock to the patient. The single shock has now brought the patient’s pulse back and he is once more stable.

Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

  • Flat Lining
    • Unfortunately, thanks to movies and television shows, many people think that we are able to restart a flat-lined heart (known as asystole). The reality is, that once a heart has completely stopped, there is no chance of “restarting” it – the person is dead. An AED is instead designed to disrupt an erratic heartbeat into beating normally once more – to ‘defibrillate’ a heart that is in ‘fibrillation.’
  • Heart Attack
    • In this scene, House says on the phone that the patient is having a ‘heart attack,’ but this is where Dr. House’s genius is flawed. A heart attack is much different than cardiac arrest. A heart attack occurs when blood flow is stopped by a blockage in an artery, causing a lack of oxygen being delivered throughout the body. Those who have a heart attack can actually be conscious while experiencing it. If the person does not receive attention quickly, then a heart attack can turn into cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is when the heart begins to beat abnormally (arrhythmias) and the heart is unable to pump blood to the rest of the body. Because the body (heart, lungs, brain, etc.) is not receiving enough blood and oxygen, the patient will then lose consciousness. Unfortunately, in this scene, the sound the heart monitor is making, suggests that the heart is beating in an erratic rhythm and the patient has progressed to experiencing a cardiac arrest.


2. The Office (Deleted Scene)


In Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, there is always someone who is up to no good. This time it is Kevin, one of the office accountants. When Meredith goes to stand up and file some paperwork, Kevin quickly makes his move and places AED pads upon Meredith’s chair. Then he runs away to watch what will happen. Meredith then sits down, and much to Kevin’s surprise, she seems to do nothing. Then, her hair starts to stand on end as she continues her work, leaving Kevin giggling in delight.

Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

  • AED Usage
    • Although it may seem like an electrical current could cause Meredith’s hair to stand on end, this is not realistic. AEDs do not give a constant flow of electricity or shocks. Instead it is a quick shock that is delivered once after the press of a button, and only when it analyzes the need.
    • Even if this were the case, using an AED this way would cause serious harm to a person and would do much more damage than simply raising up a few hairs. As well, this prank would be impossible to pull off because every AED has voice-activated prompts that assist you within an emergency, something Meredith would hear right away.
  • Pad Placement
    • When you watch Kevin place the AED pads on Meredith’s chair, you will notice that the pad-placement diagram is on the top. So, when Meredith sits down, she sits on the tops of the pads – meaning that the shock would be delivered downwards towards the floor. This is an unrealistic representation of how an AED should be used and what it would do if it was used this way.
  • Shock Delivery
    • As mentioned, the way an AED works is that someone must press a button on the primary device to deliver a shock. This delay and required action ensures that the emergency responders have time to make certain that everyone is clear from the patient. In this scene, Kevin simply places the pads on the chair and walks away. This scenario would not actually be possible as a button needs to be pressed to deliver a shock. Therefore, this scene from The Office is a perfect example of why using an AED doesn’t quite work like that. Sorry Kevin, try again next time.


3. Dexter 


Dexter is a blood spatter expert who feels that his serial killings are justified because he only kills guilty individuals. In this scene Dexter is after two more victims: local emergency medical service workers, who are called to a scene for a ‘possible stabbing.’ What they don’t realize is that it is a set up, and Dexter quickly takes out the two guards. He brings them back to the ambulance, ties them up, and tells them why they are his next victims – because they were only saving some people and then letting others die to harvest their organs. So, Dexter feels it is only right that they see justice. After taking a blood spatter sample from each individual, he uses the ambulance charging defibrillator paddles and places one paddle on each guard. The guards receive a constant stream of shocks and seize until they die.

Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

  • AED Shock
    • As Dexter charges up the paddles to the AED, he then menacingly holds them over the two emergency medical service workers. Then as he has said his last words to them, he puts the paddles down upon them and they receive an enormous electric shock. The problem with this is that AEDs will not continue to give a long-lasting shock. Once the AED paddles are placed upon a patient, the button is pressed and it gives a quick single shock. Unlike what Dexter is doing, the AED is not a taser and will only work if it senses the heart is fibrillating.  It is for this reason that the show ‘Dexter’ displays that using an AED doesn’t exactly work like that.


4. Fringe


As a chase continues, Peter finds himself with a young woman who is going into cardiac arrest. He calls a friend and explains his situation. While he is on the phone, the woman’s heart stops and flat-lines. Peter panics and begins grabbing things around the garage setting that he is in, explaining to his friend on the phone that he does not have a defibrillator. With his friend’s medical ‘expertise,’ Peter begins to create his own AED using an old battery and some large pieces of scrap metal. Sure enough, after he is told to “crank it,” using the AED, he shocks the woman’s heart into beating once more.

Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

  • Flat Lining
    • As discussed, an AED cannot actually revive an individual who has flat-lined. An AED is used to normalize an erratic pulse, not restart a heart completely. Many television shows and movies show an AED restarting a flat-lined pulse, but in reality, AEDs are best used when a patient is experiencing heart arrhythmias (such as ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation).
  • The Shock
    • When Peter’s friend on the phone tells him that he needs 200 volts, he grabs the nearest car battery. Unfortunately, building an AED doesn’t work like that as there are more things to consider besides how many volts are needed. In the film, he simply turns a dial to administer the shock (a shock that seems to last for a long time). The common AED will administer a quick shock, as electrocution is not the goal. It is an amazing feat that this woman in the film survived, as the odds (and reality) were against her!


5. Rookie Blue


Chloe is in the hospital and is speaking with a friend when suddenly she stops talking and her heart goes into cardiac arrest. The doctors and nurses are called in immediately and they begin doing CPR on Chloe until the crash cart is brought in. The doctors keep a steady eye on her pulse and give Chloe a shock, wait, and then administer another shock. Then Chloe flat-lines and the nurse announces that she is in asystole (flat-lined). The doctor than instructs the nurses to continue CPR compressions and breaths. They do this for a while and then take a moment to check her heart rhythm and then find that she has a ‘shockable rhythm’ and give yet another shock. Chloe’s heart then returns to regular rhythm and becomes stable once more.

Why Using an AED Doesn’t Work Like That

  • Correct AED usage
    • Although most of Hollywood wrongly displays using an AED, some television shows get it right! This scene in Rookie Blue is a perfect example of how an AED should be used in a hospital setting. The staff recognize that giving shocks when Chloe has flat-lined is incorrect, and instead continue CPR to see if they can restart the heart.
  • Paddle Placement
    • The only thing that is slightly wrong with this scene is the paddle placement. If you look carefully at the placement of the pads for the second shock, you will notice that they are placed closer to Chloe’s abdomen. Pad placement should always be one on the top right-side chest, and one on the left-side ribs. Despite this, everything else was done correctly, even the fact that they raised Chloe’s shirt to ensure that her skin was in contact with the paddles.


Next time you sit down to watch a show and see characters using an AED, remember that it may be being used in correctly! AEDs should be used in emergency situations (not pranks or murders), and are easily used thanks to the advancements in technology where the machine can tell us what to do. Having an AED nearby could be just the thing to save a life! Want to know more about how an AED works and get one for your location? First Edition First Aid has all the resources for you to learn more about AEDs and purchasing an AED yourself!


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