Automated External Defibrillators – The History and the Invention of AEDs

The discovery that someone’s heart can be restarted with the use of an electrical charge is one of modern medicine’s greatest developments. This idea began around 1888 when Mac William suggested that ventricular fibrillation could be a sudden death cause. In 1989, Batelli and Prevost made the discovery that large amounts of voltage provided to the heart could halt ventricular fibrillation within animals. Other studies completed in the nineteenth century by scientists furthered electricity’s effects on the heart.

An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a portable electronic device that is able to determine someone’s heart rhythm. It detects life threatening issues within the heart and has the ability to treat them with defibrillation. If necessary, an AED can provide electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heart rhythm. When someone suffers from a sudden cardiac arrest, the chances of him or her surviving is reduced to between 7 and 10 percent with each minute that passes without either CPR or defibrillation.

The first successful defibrillation on a human was reported in 1947 by Dr. Claude Beck. During one of his surgeries, he noticed his patient was experiencing ventricular fibrillation. He administered an alternating current of 60 Hz and stabilized the heartbeat. This particular patient of his lived; defibrillators were created.

An AED has a built-in computer that assesses a heart’s rhythm, determines if it needs defibrillation and then administers the needed level of shock. The user of the AED is guided through this process with either audible prompts, visual prompts or both. Automated external defibrillators are usually sold in kits that contain a power unit, paddle electrodes and accessories. Each part is made individually and then put together through an integrated process. Today, manufacturers of medical devices have created many defibrillators, external and internal, that are able to add years to the lives of many patients.

External defibrillators can be used at hospitals or emergency sites. The user begins by turning on the defibrillator and applying conductive gel on the patient’s chest or paddle electrodes. The level of energy is then decided upon and the instrument charges. The paddles are firmly placed on the chest with some pressure. Buttons found on the electrodes are pressed at the same time and electric shock is then delivered to the patient. After this procedure, the heartbeat is then monitored for a regular heartbeat. The entire process is then repeated if needed.

In 1954, the first closed-chest defibrillation was performed on a dog by William and Kouwenhoven Milnor. This process was studied by Paul Zoll in 1956 and he performed the first successful on a human. Qilliam Bennett Kouwenhoven, born in Brookly in 1886, was an electrical engineer and invented three defibrillator and also developed CPR techniques.

The AED (automated external defibrillator) was created in 1978. This particular device is made with sensors that are placed on the chest to decide is ventricular fibrillation is occurring. If it is detected, the device gives the proper instructions for providing an electrical shock. These automated devices have been able to reduce the training that is needed to use defibrillators and have also saved thousands of people’s lives.