By Eddy Lam
Defibrillator â€“ heart savior or life killer? The typical thought is that a defibrillator is used to save lives, but how can it kill too?
A defibrillator is a medical device used in the defibrillation of the heart. Defibrillation is the definitive treatment for ventricular fibrillation (VF) and pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT), the two most common causes of sudden cardiac death.
Ventricular fibrillation (V-fib or VF) is a condition in which there is uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle of the ventricles in the heart. As a result, the heart fails to adequately pump the blood, and tachycardia and hypoxia may occur.
Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach or VT) is a fast rhythm that originates in one of the ventricles of the heart. This is a potentially life-threatening arrhythmia because it may lead to ventricular fibrillation and sudden death.
Simply put, a defibrillator is a heart shocking device to â€œzapâ€ the heart into normal rhythm after patients suffer irregular heartbeat or fibrillation, which are rapid, life-threatening arrhythmias, originating in the lower chambers of the heart.
The internal defibrillators are implanted surgically in the chest while the external ones are not. When a cardiac arrhythmia occurs, the capacitor is charged and the device delivers the appropriate shock.
According to The Defibrillator Working Group of the Food and Drug Administration if the defibrillators are â€œnot usedâ€ correctly, it can kill too.
Some failures are attributable to component malfunctions such as a delay or non delivery of the appropriate required shock in a life threatening moment. Sometimes, defibrillators and batteries are kept in usage beyond an expected useful life, given the high level of clinical use.
However, the research of the working group shows that errors in operator use and errors in defibrillator care and maintenance account for many of the defibrillator failures. There is also inadequate initial training and continuing education was done cursorily.
Failure of operators to perform daily equipment checks leads to poor familiarity with the equipment and failure to identify component failures or damaged devices. This too leads to the failures of defibrillators to save lives.
Defibrillator â€“ heart savior or life killer? Only if the users know what they are doing, then the defibrillator is a heart savior and not a life killer.
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