When someone with a pacemaker is in distress, it may be difficult to know how to safely help them and if you can use a defibrillator on them if needed. Having a pacemaker does not mean that you are immune to heart disease, it does not prevent heart attacks, and while it may slow the progression of heart failure, it does not mean that heart failure cannot happen. When someone you love is living with a pacemaker, ensure that you know what to do in an emergency situation and how to help them.
What is a pacemaker?
Usually used to treat arrhythmias, a pacemaker is a small device placed inside someone’s chest or abdomen which gives off electrical pulses to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. A pacemaker may also track a heart’s electrical activity, heart rhythm, blood temperature, and breathing rate.
The heart works on an electrical system which tells the heart when to beat and pump blood. When this electrical signal is irregular, it causes the heart to beat abnormally. An arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm meaning the heart either beats too slow (bradycardia) or too fast (tachycardia), and the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Pacemakers help correct this.
Is it safe to use an AED on someone with a pacemaker?
Let’s clear this up right away: it is safe to use an AED on someone with a pacemaker.
A pacemaker is not designed to regulate fibrillation, so an AED is still necessary when someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest.
A pacemaker can usually be seen through someone’s chest, typically located in the upper left chest. While it should be easy to spot the pacemaker, you must ensure that the AED electrode pads do not come into contact with it.
Note: It is also safe to perform CPR on an individual with a pacemaker. CPR is performed in the centre of the chest, so there should be no significant impact on the pacemaker. The pacemaker leads may shift within the heart, however that is a small issue when compared to lifesaving CPR.
How to use an AED on someone with a pacemaker.
Although pacemakers are designed to withstand AED shocks, it is important to place the electrode pads a minimum 1 inch away from the pacemaker so as not to cause damage to it. Placement should not be a problem given that the pads are to be placed on the upper right side of the chest (whereas the pacemaker is on the upper left) and on the left side of the rib cage under the arm. Follow the visual instructions on the electrode pad packaging for proper placement.
Recommended AED for Pacemakers
First Edition AED is a licensed distributor of Philips AEDs. We believe that these are the easiest defibrillators to use, and anyone can use an AED. Philips AEDs provide easy to follow visual and audio instructions so you can properly assist someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
The Philips HeartStart In-Home AED is recommended for at-home use. It is ideal for home and general use since it is compact and compatible with the onsite infant/child smart pads. It is important for everyone to learn how to use an AED and know where in the home it is stored. Sign your family up for Private Group First Aid Training when a member is diagnosed or living with heart disease, or requires a pacemaker, and be prepared to save a loved one’s life in the event of an emergency situation.
AEDs save lives and, regardless of whether or not you have been diagnosed with or are living with heart disease or a pacemaker, you should have an AED accessible in your home and office. Using an AED can double the chances of survival, so it is important to know what to do when someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest.
Defibrillators are versatile medical devices, and they can be used in most emergency cardiac arrest events. Take care of those you love by having an AED available and learning how to use one for different situations. We always hope you do not have to use one, however, the knowledge can save a life.