AED Use in ACLS and Types of Defibrillators for Advanced Cardiac Life Support

Learn about automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and their use in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) play a vital role in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) by delivering life-saving electrical shocks to individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. Let’s explore what an AED is, its use in ACLS, the different types of defibrillators available, shockable rhythms, AHA recommendations, and best practices.

Understanding Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

An AED is a portable device designed to analyze a person’s heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock if needed. These devices are user-friendly and designed for individuals without medical training. They provide clear voice and visual instructions to guide users through the resuscitation process, including performing CPR and delivering shocks when necessary.

AED Use in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)

In ACLS, AEDs serve as a crucial tool for providers in managing cardiac emergencies. When a patient’s heart rhythm is identified as shockable, such as ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT), an AED can be used to administer a life-saving electrical shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. Prompt defibrillation significantly increases the chances of survival for individuals experiencing cardiac arrest.

RELATED: ACLS Made Easy: Your Guide to Advanced Cardiac Life Support

Prompt defibrillation significantly increases the chances of survival for individuals experiencing cardiac arrest.

RELATED: Learn the Basics of ACLS and Atrial Flutter for Effective Treatment

Types of Defibrillators for ACLS Providers

ACLS providers have access to different types of defibrillators, including:

  1. Manual Defibrillators: These defibrillators allow providers to manually analyze the heart rhythm, determine the appropriate energy level for the shock, and deliver the shock using external paddles or self-adhesive electrodes. They provide more advanced features and are commonly used in hospital settings.
  2. Semi-Automated Defibrillators: These defibrillators have automated rhythm analysis but require the provider to manually deliver the shock by pressing a button. They are widely used in public spaces, such as airports, shopping malls, and schools, as they enable non-medical personnel to respond to emergencies effectively.

Shockable Rhythms and the Role of AED in Treating Abnormal Arrhythmias

Shockable rhythms are those that respond well to defibrillation. Examples of shockable rhythms include ventricular fibrillation (VF) and pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). In these cases, an AED is recommended to deliver an electrical shock to the heart to restore a normal rhythm.

However, it’s important to note that not all arrhythmias require defibrillation. Non-shockable rhythms, such as asystole and pulseless electrical activity (PEA), do not respond to defibrillation and require other interventions.

RELATED: Understanding Advanced Algorithms for the Treatment of Ventricular Fibrillation

Do’s and Don’ts of AED Usage: Best Practices and Common Mistakes

To ensure proper use of an AED, remember the following do’s and don’ts:


  • Call for emergency medical assistance immediately.
  • Follow the AED’s voice and visual prompts.
  • Ensure the patient’s chest is dry before attaching the electrodes.
  • Stand clear of the patient when the shock is delivered.
  • Resume CPR immediately after the shock, as directed.


  • Use an AED on a patient who is conscious and responsive.
  • Use an AED in a wet environment without taking precautions.
  • Touch the patient or any surfaces during rhythm analysis or shock delivery.
  • Use an AED on an infant or child without pediatric-specific electrodes or settings.

Common mistakes when using an AED include not properly attaching the electrodes, failing to follow voice prompts, and hesitating to deliver shocks when indicated. Regular training and refreshing your knowledge of AED usage can help prevent these errors.

 Regular training and refreshing your knowledge of AED usage can help prevent these errors.

RELATED: Shockable Rhythms in ACLS

Recent American Heart Association (AHA) Recommendations for AEDs

The AHA continually updates its guidelines to enhance resuscitation practices. Recent recommendations highlight the importance of early access to AEDs in all settings, increased public awareness and education about AED use, and improvements in AED maintenance and readiness. These updates aim to improve survival rates and outcomes in cases of sudden cardiac arrest.

Check out Medical ProCerts for accredited, AHA-compliant online ACLS certifications at Also, download the ACLS Algorithm course pack that includes the most recent ACLS algorithms at

RELATED: ACLS Certification Course: Guideline, Professionals, and Online Training

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