You may be wondering how electrode pads work, where to place them on someone who has a cardiac arrest, how to look after them and what to do with them once they’ve been used.
We answer your most pressing questions about electrode pads:
Where to do I put the electrode pads?
In order for the defibrillator to provide an effective shock, the pads must be positioned correctly on the patient to allow the electrical current to pass through the body. When the pads are placed correctly, you can imagine there is a ‘circuit’ formed between the pads and through the heart – this is where the electric will pass through the heart.
One electrode pad should be placed adhesive side down on the top right area of the chest. The second pad should be placed on the left side of the chest, below the heart.
Most defibrillators come with a starter kit which usually contains accessories such as gloves, scissors (in case clothes need to be cut to allow access to the patients’ chest) and a razor. You may need to dry the patients’ skin if wet or shave the chest if there is hair that interferes with the pads adhesion to the skin.
If your defibrillator is situated somewhere where it could be used on a child, your defibrillator may need paediatric pads. In this case, one pad should be placed in the centre of the child’s chest, whilst the second pad goes on the child’s back at the same level. Your defibrillator also may have a switch or require a key to change it from adult to paediatric mode. This ensures that the child receives a reduced shock suitable for a young heart. Some defibrillator have ‘smart’ pads which means there is no need to swap the pads over. If you’re not sure if your defibrillator uses smart pads, get in touch with us and we’d be happy to advise. Remember that if you only have adult pads available, these can be used on a child if necessary.
How do I use electrode pads?
Some defibrillator pads are already connected to the defibrillator, which can save some time when someone has a cardiac arrest. Most defibrillator pads also have diagrams to remind you where they should be placed.
Once the pads are in position, they will start to analyse the patient’s heart rhythm. This is then fed back to the defibrillator to determine whether or not a shock is needed. A defibrillator won’t always shock - despite what some people think, you can’t shock someone ‘by accident’. The heart must be in what’s called a shockable rhythm. This could be if the heart is in VF (ventricular fibrillation) or VT (ventricular tachycardia). If this happens, then a shock will be advised.
How long do electrode pads last?
Most electrode pads have around 2 years of life before they expire. They will display a date on them so that you know when they will need to be replaced. Electrode pads are single use only, which means once they have been used, they will need to be disposed of. We recommend that you have a spare set available so that you’re never left without any pads.
How do I look after my electrode pads?
If electrode pads become damaged or dirty, this can impact on their efficacy when it comes to treating someone who has had a cardiac arrest. Even cold weather conditions can impact the gel adhesive, causing it to freeze, which could render the pads useless if they’re not cared for properly. If your defibrillator is 24/7 public access, it should be kept in an external heated cabinet to ensure it is kept at an optimum temperature at all times.
Electrode pads - General Q&A’s
Q: Can electrode pads/ a defibrillator be used on someone who is pregnant?
A: Yes, the reality is if a person has suffered a cardiac arrest, the only device that can help is a defibrillator. Simply put, they will die without treatment.
Q: How should electrodes be stored?
A: Some pads can be stored in the carry case with the defibrillator, reconnected if possible. If you have a spare set, keep them in dry conditions until you need them.
Q: Can electrodes be used in the rain?
A: Yes. The adhesive is incredibly sticky, but remember to dry the patients’ chest as best as you can before sticking the pads down if possible. Ensure that the patient is not laying in a water/puddle when using a defibrillator.
If you would like more support or advice regarding electrode pads or defibrillators, please get in touch with us.
To apply for a defibrillator, please visit www.londonhearts.org/apply-online