The A–Z of Defibrillation: Terminology You Need to Know

Medical terminology surrounding defibrillators, CPR and cardiac arrest can be confusing. To help make first aid accessible, Aero Healthcare has collated key terms, so that anyone using or looking to purchase a defibrillator can find the answers they need.

Defibrillator Definitions

AED: AEDs (Automated External Defibrillators) are publicly accessible defibrillators that automatically deliver life-saving shocks to the heart during sudden cardiac arrest, without the need for medical training before use.

Defibrillator: A defibrillator is a life-saving device that sends electrical shocks to the heart muscles during cardiac arrest, in order to set the heart back into proper rhythm. A defibrillator is a broad term for the different types of defibrillators, which includes ICD, AED and WCD.

HeartSine: HeartSine’s founders were the first to introduce a portable defibrillator to the market in 1966, called the Mobile Coronary Care Unit. In 1998, HeartSine were formed and furthered earlier developments of portable cardiac defibrillators. In the modern day, HeartSine is a pioneer of AEDs, and here at Aero Healthcare, we only stock HeartSine’s Samaritan AEDs.

ICD: An ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) is a device that is placed under the skin,  that monitors a person’s heartbeat, only delivering treatment when a dangerous heart rhythm is detected. This must be installed during surgery and is given to people who are at higher risk of a heart attack or have had one in the past.

PadPak™: A brand name for the pad system used by HeartSine defibrillators. The pads attach to the person’s chest through a conductive gel and are used to deliver the controlled shock.

Pacemaker: A pacemaker is different to a defibrillator, as it manages a person’s heartbeat continuously. Rather than shocking the heart to beat at a normal pattern, a pacemaker aims to reduce the need for this by regulating a person’s heartbeat through signals sent at a steady rate.

PAD: A PAD is a Publicly Accessible Defibrillator. This is an AED designed for use by bystanders who may not have medical training but are responding to an emergency. These devices will guide a person through each step.

WCD: WCD (Wearable Cardioverter Defibrillator) is an external defibrillator that is worn like a vest, next to the skin. It’s used when waiting for an ICD to be fitted, or if you are at short-term risk of a cardiac arrest.

CPR Definitions

Airway: Before rescue breaths are carried out, the chin should be tilted back to open the airway fully. Airways should always be cleared before rescue breaths are carried out.

CPR: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, known as CPR, is the practice of applying chest compressions to a person immediately after cardiac arrest happens. It is one of the most commonly used forms of lifesaving intervention and can greatly improve a person’s chance of survival.

Chest Compression: A chest compression is carried out at 100 BPM (beats per minute) to help regulate a person’s heartbeat and set it back into normal rhythm. In a chest compression, the first responder will press down on a person’s chest repeatedly at the rate of 100 BPM. Repeated compressions recreate the pumping motion of the heart, pushing blood around the body.

Chain of Survival: The Chain of Survival is a term coined by the medical community, which describes a series of actions that, when properly carried out, reduce the mortality associated with sudden cardiac arrest.

 In the UK, these include:

  1. Phoning emergency services
  2. Carrying out CPR
  3. Using an AED
  4. Receiving hospital care

Face Shield: Face shields can be used to protect the CPR performer from infection, blood, or debris, when carrying out rescue breaths. It’s placed over a person’s mouth and has a gap for someone to deliver rescue breaths.

Rescue Breath: Rescue breaths are delivered after every 30 chest compressions. Two rescue breaths are given every 30 compressions, with checks on whether the chest inflates after each breath. This is continued until emergency help arrives.

Cardiac Arrest Definitions

Aborted Sudden Cardiac Death: Aborted Sudden Cardiac Death describes when CPR and defibrillation is successful, and a person survives a cardiac arrest.

Arrhythmia: Arrhythmia is when the heart beats irregularly, whether too fast, too slow, or at an erratic pace. People can live with some types of arrhythmias, but other types of arrythmia cause SCA.

Cardiac Arrest: A more common name for SCA, cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating, and CPR and defibrillation must be used to ensure survival.

Heart Attack: Heart attacks, technically called myocardial infarction, are when there is a blockage in one of the arteries to the heart, which stops the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, causing damage to the heart’s chambers.

Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest: Out of hospital cardiac arrest is another term similar to SCA and is used in medical reports by paramedics to denote when someone has had a cardiac arrest outside of a medical environment, such as a hospital.

SCA: SCA, or Sudden Cardiac Arrest, is when the heart suddenly stops beating. If a person is not treated within minutes, it is fatal.

SCD: Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is the term used by coroners when someone has died from SCA. In the UK, only 5 to 10% of people currently survive a SCA.

Ventricular Fibrillation: This is a type of arrhythmia, and is a rapid, disorganised rhythm of heartbeats that causes SCA, and can lead to death within minutes.

Are you looking for a defibrillator supplier with end-to-end support?

Aero Healthcare focusses on providing the highest-quality products, and support at every point of your journey, including training and AED installation.