Everything you need to know about SCA & AEDs

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Everything you need to know about SCA and AEDs


What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

It’s a medical emergency, a condition in which the heartbeat stops abruptly and unexpectedly. This usually is caused by ventricular fibrillation (VF), an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain the heart and the rest of the body, and the person collapses. In fact, the victim is clinically dead and will remain so unless someone helps immediately. A quick combination of CPR and defibrillation can restore life. SCA can strike without warning anytime, anywhere, affecting people of all ages and all fitness levels.

If you see someone collapse and is unresponsive, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number and begin CPR immediately and, if available, use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) until medical help arrives. If this treatment is administered within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, it can save a life!


What are the signs of SCA?

The victim is unconscious, has no pulse, is not breathing or is gasping for air.


What is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)?

An AED that is used to get a heart back to its’ natural heart rhythms by delivering an electrical shock to the heart. The AED automatically analyses heart rhythms and advises the operator to deliver a shock if the heart is in a fatal heart rhythm. AEDs are safe and will not shock anyone who is not in a fatal heart rhythm. Non-medical personnel can use AEDs safely and effectively with minimal training.


How does an AED work?

The defibrillator analyzes the victim’s heart rhythm and decides whether a shock is needed. Some AEDs shock the victim automatically if a shock is needed; others require that the operator press a button to deliver the shock. The shock is delivered through pads stuck to the victim’s bare chest. The shock stuns the heart, stopping abnormal heart activity, and allowing a normal heart rhythm to resume.


Who can use an AED?

Modern AEDs are designed to be used by any motivated bystander, regardless of training. The devices are designed to advise the user about how to apply the device and whether or not to administer a shock.


Can I accidentally hurt the victim with an AED?

No. Most SCA victims will die if they are not treated immediately. Your actions can only help. AEDs are designed in such a way that they will only shock victims who need to be shocked.


What about liability?

There is no civil liability for a responder if physical damage or death occurs to a victim; we are all protected under the Good Samaritan Act*. In addition, the Chase McEachern Act (Heart Defibrillator Civil Liability), 2007†:

  • Protects individuals from liability for damages that may occur in relation to their use of an AED to save someone’s life at the immediate scene of an emergency, unless damages are caused by gross negligence;
  • Protects health care professionals from liability for damages that may occur in relation to their use of an AED to save someone’s life at the immediate scene of an emergency, unless damages are caused by gross negligence and unless the AED is used in a hospital or other place having appropriate health care facilities and equipment for the purpose of defibrillation;
  • Protects owners and occupiers of premises on which an AED is installed from liability for any harm that may occur in relation to the use of the AED, provided that the owner or occupier made the AED available for use in good faith without gross negligence and properly maintained the defibrillator.




What about training?

First Aid & CPR training is mandated in Ontario by WSIB in all workplaces. AEDs are an essential part of first aid and has been incorporated in First Aid & CPR training courses. AED certification and training are not mandatory; any person can use a defibrillator.


7 Shocking Statistics!

  1. Up to 40,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in Canada. That’s one cardiac arrest every 12 minutes. Without rapid and appropriate treatment, most of these cardiac arrests will result in death. Thousands of lives could be saved through public access to automated external defibrillators. ‡
  2. Almost 80% of all cardiac arrests occur in homes and public places. ꟸ
  3. After more than 12 minutes of ventricular fibrillation, the survival rate from cardiac arrest is less than 5%. ‡
  4. For every 1-minute delay in defibrillation, the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim decreases by 7% to 10%. ‡
  5. Combined with CPR, the use of an AED may increase the likelihood of survival by 75% or more. ‡
  6. If an AED is immediately applied to a victim of cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation, particularly within the first 5 to 10 minutes, survival rates are higher than 85%. ‡
  7. Lay responders can be effective for improving survival from cardiac arrest. The Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) trial demonstrated a doubling of survival rates (from 17% to 34%) in public places where defibrillators are placed and lay volunteers are trained to use the defibrillators. ‡



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