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The Differences Between Public AEDs and Defibrillators in Hospitals

The Differences Between Public AEDs and Defibrillators in Hospitals

When you hear the word ‘AED’ or ‘defibrillator’ you probably think of a hospital scene with a nurse pushing a giant cart into a room and a doctor shouting “Clear!” The use of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is all too familiar in today’s television shows and films, but what we don’t know is that there are differences between the AEDs we see in hospitals and the ones found in public places. The fact is, anyone can use an AED, not just doctors! When an emergency occurs, it is detrimental that an individual receives immediate attention from a defibrillator. Simply having an AED at an emergency scene can more than DOUBLE the chances of survival. But what is it that makes a public AED and a defibrillator in the hospital different? Here is everything you need to know about the differences between the two and how both are truly life-saving devices!


Defibrillator Used in Hospitals

What most people recognize for defibrillators used in hospitals is the two hand paddles connected with cords to a much larger machine. This is an accurate depiction of a hospital defibrillator and they are commonly used in emergency hospital settings. The difference between the defibrillator used in hospitals and the AEDs found in public is that hospital defibrillators are manual. The doctors and nurses assess how large of a shock to give the patient and the doctor decides when and how often to Hospital Defibrillatorpress the button to administer the shock. The machines are much larger in size and are usually stored on a cart (commonly referred to as a ‘Crash Cart’ on television).

Portable AED’s used in public assumes that the individual does not have medical training, whereas hospital defibrillators are designed to offer more options, which may be used and adjusted by an expert. The medical staff will observe the heart rhythm of the patient on a monitor. By looking at these heart rhythms they can see the state of the individual’s heart, and shock if it is beating irregularly (arrhythmias caused by a cardiac arrest).


AED Used in Public Locations

Whereas a defibrillator used in a medical professional setting relies upon the doctor’s understanding and knowledge, AEDs in public are prepared to guide you through every step. Each Public AED - DefibrillatorAED is equipped with detailed diagrams displaying pad placement and thorough automated voice instructions explaining the next steps. The AED will inform you when to perform CPR, when to administer a shock, and when you should stand back. This is an extremely important feature to have for a public AED as it ensures that anyone and everyone can assist in an emergency.

Another public AED feature different from the hospital defibrillator is that the AED is made to do all of the work. The AED will evaluate the patient’s heart rate after the pad stickers (as opposed to defibrillator paddles) have been attached and will inform the user whether or not the patient needs a shock. If the patient does require a shock, then the AED will charge up and wait for the user to press the shock button once everyone has been cleared away from the patient.


Although both are very different in usage, size, and control, both work to fulfill the same purpose. A public AED and a hospital defibrillator are used to ‘kick’ a heart beating irregularly (cardiac arrest) into a normal rhythm. Without these life-saving devices, many would be lost. It is becoming increasingly evident that having access to these machines will continue to save lives. Does your workplace/home/local area have access to an AED? If not, why not? Consider getting an AED in your location so that you too can be prepared!

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