A Second Chance for Cardiac Arrest Victims

Arrhythmia patients headed toward cardiac arrest could be saved by new AED pads

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) An electrical shock to the heart can be lifesaving for people whose heart has stopped beating. But when the first shock doesn't work, a second shock is needed. A patient's life is at risk if that second shock isn't given quickly. Now, there is a new tool to speed up the time between shocks.

A team of students has created a new type of pad for automated external defibrillators (AED) - a common tool used in emergencies to shock a person's heart back into a normal rhythm. Rescuers do not have to move these new pads in order to give a second shock.

"A new tool for shocking the heart back into action may save more lives."

The AED pads that are currently used have to be moved if the first shock doesn't work. This can cost valuable time and possibly the patient's life, says Brad Otto, a Rice University student on the DefibTaskForce.

However, these new pads do not need to be moved. Instead, a simple flip of a switch changes the path of the electrical shock.

When they started their project, the research team decided not to make a whole new AED. Instead, they made these new pads. They hope that this will make it easy for their invention to enter the market and begin being used.

People with arrhythmia - a heartbeat that is too fast , too slow, or has an irregular beat - are at risk of cardiac arrest, a condition when the heart stops beating and flow of blood stops. AEDs are used to deliver an electrical shock to victim's of cardiac arrest so that their hearts can start beating again and return to a normal rhythm.

With the currently used AEDs, the electrical shock travels between two electrodes, each in its own pad. If the shock doesn't get a victim's heart running again, then those two pads need to be removed and repositioned. This can take time, and rescuers who are not trained might not even know where a second position would be.

The pads made by the Rice University students - called Second-Chance AED pads - were designed to fix these problems. These pads have three electrodes. Two electrodes are in one pad with a switch to select which one to use. The third electrode is in a separate pad.

If a first shock doesn't work, this new design allows rescuers to leave the pads attached to the victim and flip a switch, thus redirecting the path of the electrical shock.

According to Otto and his colleagues, cutting out the time it takes to move AED pads could save as many as 13,000 lives each year.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 27, 2011
Last Updated:
April 29, 2011