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How to use an AED on a patient with a hairy chest

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Recently according to NBC News, an AED wasn’t used on a patient because a rescuer thought that it couldn’t be used on a patient with a hairy chest. He unfortunately died. A hairy chest can prevent the AED pads from properly attaching to the patient which causes the AED to incorrectly read the patient’s heart rhythm or to give an incorrect shock. This is because the electrode gel on the pad is not attached to the skin; rather, the pads are attached to the hair. Without properly attached pads, the AED will keep verbalizing to attach the pads to the patient. Having a properly managed AED with the proper accessories, you will be able to effectively attach the AED to a patient with a hairy chest.

Required Equipment for use of an AED on a hairy chest

AED hairy chest

All AED’s should have an accessory pouch which includes at minimum: a CPR mask, set of gloves, red disposal bag, clothes cutting scissors, and a disposable razor. Using the disposable razor, you can quickly shave the areas where the AED pads will be attached. The area doesn’t need to be completely bare of hair; a few strands can still remain. It is important to note that the razor should be used dry and to not use anything to lubricate while shaving. If you accidentally cut the patient with the razor, quickly wipe away any blood before attaching the pad.

What to do if you don’t have a razor?

The other option on working with a patient with a hairy chest if you don’t have a razor is to take the AED pads and attempt to properly attach them to the patient. If the AED doesn’t start analyzing the patient’s heart rhythm after applying the pads, push harder on the pads against the skin. If the AED still asks for the pads to be attached after pushing on them a second time, quickly pull the pads off the patient which will also pull the hair off the area. A properly managed AED should include two sets of adult-sized pads. Attach the second set of adult pads to the patient in the proper areas where the hair was removed from the first set. If the first set of pads were used to pull the hair off and you don’t have a second set of pads, keep doing CPR and send someone to see if another AED can be located.

Final Takeaway

A properly maintained AED will allow you to take care of a person in cardiac arrest who needs an AED but has a hairy chest. Ensure that your AED has a complete accessory pack and a full complement of pads including two sets of adult pads and one set of child pads or a child dosage key.



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