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Types of Defibrillators

Types of Defibrillator pads graphic

Types of Defibrillators


When thinking of defibrillators, you probably imagine a hospital TV drama that is using the famous paddles to revive someone in cardiac arrest. The doctor shouts ‘clear’ and everyone stands back and waits for the device to work its magic. (Did you know there is actually a lot done incorrectly on those TV shows?). But what many do not realize is that there are multiple types of defibrillators! They are all serving the same purpose of ‘kicking’ a heart back into beating normally, but each different in the way that they are used.


Hospital Defibrillators

Hospital DefibrillatorsAs described above, when we picture a defibrillator, we often think of the ‘crash carts’ rolled in by nurses, leading up to the doctor using the paddles to revive a patient. These are exactly the types of defibrillators used primarily in hospitals and other emergency medical facilities. What makes these AEDs different is that the devices used in hospitals are manual. The doctor and medical staff can adjust the voltage that will be administered to a patient as well as when to press the button and give the shock. This is not an option available for any other AED, and is only usable by trained professionals.


Public DefibrillatorsPublic Defibrillators

The other most commonly recognized defibrillator is the one found in public. These are attached to the walls (often within cabinets) of major public spaces and facilities and are there to be used by anyone in need, should someone suffer a cardiac arrest while out and about in the world. These AEDs are slightly different from ones found in hospital because for public defibrillators, the user does not have direct control. Every public AED available, whatever brand, uses an automated monitoring system to identify when a patient needs a shock (and keep the responder safe).

How it works is that the responder will turn on the AED, listen to automated instructions, place the pads accordingly on the patient, and wait for further guidance from the device. If the defibrillator analyzes the patient’s sporadic heart rate (called arrhythmias), it will suggest a shock. The machine will then quickly charge up and inform you that everyone needs to stand clear. Then once you are ready and are sure that no one is in contact with the patient, you click the ‘shock’ button to administer it. This will be repeated continuously, with detailed instructions and alternative guided CPR, until either the patient’s heart returns to a normal rhythm or medical help arrives.

DID YOU KNOW: With the use of drones, delivering an AED to an emergency has become much more effective! Some AEDs are now attached to drones and flown directly to a person in need. This technological advancement reduces the wait time significantly; getting the AED to the emergency location faster, and therefore increases the chances of survival!


Implanted Defibrillators

Heart shapeAlso known as Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (or ICD), implanted defibrillators are a life-changing solution for those living with heart disease. This small device, roughly the size of a pager or matchbox, is surgically placed in your chest below the collarbone with a wire feed through a vein into your heart. This tiny yet mighty defibrillator works to constantly monitor your heart and assist in cases of arrhythmia or other abnormal heart rhythms. If the ICD ever detects a problem with the heart it sends out electrical impulses (like a defibrillator) to try and correct it, as well as regulate the heartbeat. It is with this innovative device that those suffering with heart problems are able to carry on life as normal with the reassurance that their ICD is correcting and monitoring at all times!

With recent technology, ICDs may eventually develop to include self-monitoring features that allow you to receive the data on your phone. But for the meantime, most monitoring is reviewed by your direct medical team and primary doctor.


BONUS: Automated CPR Machine

Although it not considered a defibrillator because it does not deliver shocks, CPR is another method proven to save lives in times of cardiac arrest. CPR is a well-known alternative that uses compressions upon someone’s chest in hopes of pumping his or her heart back to a normal rhythm. Of course, an AED should always be the first choice, but in situations where an AED is far away or inaccessible, CPR is the next best thing. The faster a responder is able to begin compressions, the more likely the patient is to survive.

In difficult situations and environments when cardiac arrest occurs, such as a ski hill or on the way to an emergency vehicle outside, doing CPR can be tough. That is where a portable automated CPR machine comes in handy! This automated device is just the thing to help perform mechanical CPR while transporting a patient to the bottom of the ski hill, to the hospital, or other on-route situations.

How it works is the patient is placed on a backboard that has a constricting band on it. The band is placed over the patient’s chest and when started, it will give perfectly-timed compressions. These compressions are crucial to ensure that while in transport, the patient is getting the attention needed to survive. Because every minute is one step closer towards permanent brain damage or death, this machine is reducing those odds!



Now that you know all about the different types of defibrillators (and can wow your friends with your knowledge), you may also want to consider purchasing an AED for your location! Simply having one of these devices nearby DOUBLES the chances of survival. Ready to help save lives? Check out our website for more information on the Philips Heartstart Defibrillators that could be just the thing you need in your location to save a life!