Should you perform CPR before or after an AED?

Should you perform CPR before or after an AED

The question “Should you perform CPR before or after an AED?” is one we see from time to time. So we’re going to break down everything you need to know here. Cardiac arrests outside the hospital are common for all ages. Although young people have fewer chances of developing cardiac arrests, a study done between 2016 and 2018 concluded that there are over 20,000 cases of hospitalized children who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.

Providing CPR in these situations can save lives. Aside from performing CPR, there are often cases when a person needs to use AED, so a dilemma arises, “Should you perform CPR before or after an AED?”

In this article, we are breaking down the main difference between CPR and AED, what they are, their effects, and finally, give the answer to the question, “Should you perform CPR before or after?”

So Should you perform CPR before or after an AED and What is the Difference?

Both CPR and AED are emergency procedures used to prevent death, usually in cases when a cardiac arrest occurs. Some might wonder, “Should you perform CPR before or after an AED?”.Remember that a cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, as AHA briefly marks the main distinction:

      • Cardiac arrest is when a person’s heart stops beating and working unexpectedly. This is due to the heart’s “electrical system” malfunctioning.

      • A heart attack occurs when something clogs the veins or arteries and obstructs the blood flow. In that way, the heart cannot receive the blood or continue working.

    However, in both situations offering CPR and AED is essential as it can save people’s lives. But, there seems to be a general fear that AED is used only in the ultimate stages or that CPR is a mild form.

    In the content below, we discuss both of them individually to learn the main difference.


    CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which is a lifesaving procedure used in an emergency situation when a person’s heart stops pumping blood. The CPR procedure involves 30 compressions upon a person’s chest, right in the middle, and 2 rescue breaths.

    The person performing CPR imitates the blood pumping from the heart by using chest compressions and, in some cases, alternating between them and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If the person who underwent cardiac arrest had no prior illnesses or heart defects after the second 30:2 set, they should regain consciousness.

    Otherwise, the optimal number of compression and rescue breath sets is 5. It’s good to remember that CPR is better to be performed in a team of two, as after the fifth set, the person giving CPR can get tired, or they can’t simultaneously perform rescue breaths and chest compressions.


    AED stands for automated external defibrillator, which is a device that sends an electric pulse or shock to the heart. Defibrillators are devices used when a person suffers cardiac arrest or has abnormal heart beating that puts them in a life-threatening situation.

    There are different defibrillators, each designed to stabilize the situation. However, automated external defibrillators are the most common, and you can find them in many public areas, so a person can perform AED on the spot. They are made to be simple – even bystanders can use them.

    An AED works on batteries. It checks the heart’s rhythm and sends a shock directly to this muscle to stabilize the heartbeats. If you ever need to use an AED, then you should have:

        • Sticky pads with sensors – These are called electrodes, and they are attached to the chest of the person experiencing a cardiac arrest to gather information about their heart rhythm.

        • Small display or computer – The picked information is immediately displayed on the computer in the AED. The computer will process the new information and whether an electric shock is needed. If it is, it will immediately deliver the shock.

      AED Precautions to Keep in Mind

      When using an AED, it is really important to mind the following:

          • Never touch the victim while defibrillating – Touching the patient while defibrillating may transfer the electric shocks onto you.

          • Never touch the patient during the AED analysis – Even if there is something suspicious, you should never touch the patient while the AED analysis lasts because it may affect it.

          • Never use alcohol – Alcohol is flammable, so using it before defibrillating a patient may inflict severe burns.

          • Ensure nothing moves during defibrillation – Before giving the electric shock, you must give a warning to signal everyone to step back from the patient and stand still. Any movement affects the analysis.

          • Never use a defibrillator on a patient lying in water or metal – Before using the defibrillator, it is important to ensure that the victim is not lying in a liquid setting or there are no puddles around. The same goes for metal things like bleachers.

          • Never use an AED on a child under 8 years – This may be too much for a child and may inflict severe damage to their heart.

          • Make sure that the victim’s chest is clean – The chest must be clear, and there should not be any objects, patches, or even necklaces.

          • Phones, radios, or other devices should be at least 6 feet away from the AED – Any electronic device used within 6 feet of the ration where you use the AED can affect the overall analysis and give you unclear or wrong results.

        Performing CPR Before or After an AED

        There has been a general misconception that an AED is a more powerful rescue procedure than CPR. In terms of technicalities, yes, an AED is more powerful, but that is only because it is powered by batteries, whereas CPR requires only human force to perform the rescue. It is also best performed by someone who has a CPR certification.

        However, both CPR and AED are equally effective. In a situation where a person undergoes a cardiac arrest, the immediate response should be CPR an AED, because it is faster. The person offering CPR should continue doing the same 30:2 compressions-to-ventilation ratio set 5 times. If there is still no sign of breathing, moving, or opening the eyes, the person who suffered the cardiac arrest needs a stronger approach – a shock.

        First aid experts firmly claim that the combination of CPR and defibrillators not only works but significantly raises the chances of survival. According to the American Heart Association, immediately giving CPR to a victim can increase their chances of survival. An AED can boost these chances.

        What Should I Do First, Perform CPR Before or After an AED?

        When a person undergoes any collapse, the first help they should receive is always CPR. If they do not show any signs of consciousness even after performing CPR for the advised time and within the advised sets, their heart needs support from an electrical shock to restore the normal rhythm.

        However, if you use AED on a person suffering from cardiac arrest, and they still don’t show signs of life, you must go with another series of CPR. You should not stop with CPR and AED until the person gains consciousness or the ambulance arrives.

        Concluding Words: Should You Perform CPR Before or After an AED?

        CPR and AED are both very effective rescuing methods, usually used when a person suffers cardiac arrest, but do you perform CPR before or after an AED?, CPR is a lighter procedure as it involves only compressions and rescue breaths, whereas the AED involves electrical shock. The AED acts as a support to the CPR, and it elevates the survival chances significantly.

        Many people are confused when it comes to deciding what to use first, CPR or AED. As we have said, CPR comes first then, if there are no signs of life, the bystander or the person offering help to the casualty proceeds with an AED.

        Needless to say, the person that takes the responsibility to provide electrical shocks must be fully aware and know exactly how and why they should offer this particular type of help. Otherwise, they may cause more harm than help.