Updated:May 10,2016

Defibrillation is a process in which an electronic device gives an electric shock to the heart. This helps reestablish normal contraction rhythms in a heart having dangerous arrhythmia or in cardiac arrest. In recent years small portable defibrillators have become available. These are called automated external defibrillators or AEDs.

AHA Scientific Position

It's essential to integrate early defibrillation into an effective emergency cardiovascular care system. This means employing the five-part "chain of survival" concept.

  • Immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system — quickly calling the Emergency Medical Services (9-1-1) system.
  • Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with an emphasis on chest compressions — promptly giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation when needed. Order a CPR Anytime Kit.
  • Rapid defibrillation — having proper equipment and being trained to use it when indicated.
  • Effective advanced life support – including airway management, ventilation support, and treatment of rhythm disorders.
  • Integrated post-cardiac arrest care – a comprehensive, structured, integrated, multidisciplinary system of care should be implemented in a consistent manner.

All emergency personnel should be trained and allowed to use a properly maintained defibrillator if they're likely to respond to cardiac arrest victims. This includes all first-responding emergency personnel, both hospital and non-hospital.

To make early defibrillation possible, a defibrillator must be immediately available to emergency personnel responding to a cardiac arrest. Thus, all emergency ambulances and other emergency vehicles that respond to or transport heart patients should have a defibrillator.

The American Heart Association recommends that AEDs be available wherever large numbers of people congregate. Such places include airports, convention centers, sports stadiums and arenas, large industrial buildings, high-rise offices, large health fitness facilities, etc.

This content was last reviewed on 10/23/2014.

Hands-Only CPR

Two Steps To Save A Life

Hands-Only CPR can be as effective as CPR with breaths. Watch the demo video and learn how to save a life in 60 seconds.

Subscribe to Heart Insight magazine and monthly e-newsletter
Heart Insight Masthead
Our digital magazine delivers helpful articles and the latest news on keeping your heart healthy. Sign up today!



By clicking submit below you agree to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy