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Five Things You Don't Know About Testing a Defibrillator That Can Kill You

Hospitals and medical centers must ensure that their critical medical devices are safe, accurate, reliable and operational at the required level of performance. Defibrillators are critical resuscitation devices and should be tested and maintained regularly.

Tue Jun 05 2018By

We spoke with Neil Davidson at ReNew Biomedical on the importance of defibrillator testing safety in this week's Ask the Expert article. Do you have a defibrillator question? Use the contact form at the bottom of this article to ask Neil a question.

Can your defibrillator discharge without warning?

Yes, you must remove all power sources, paddles, and cables prior to opening your device. Accidental electrical discharge can easily result if paddles are connected to the unit and the buttons are inadvertently handled by the technician.

How do you know if your High Voltage Capacitor is safe to handle?

After disengaging all power sources, you must discharge the capacitor. We have a discharge tool here at ReNew Biomedical. It is also known as the “Chicken Stick”. The nickname is a result of inexperienced technicians discharging capacitors with a set of insulated pliers. Be aware that this type of unprofessional discharge is unsafe, extremely loud, and there is risk of pliers jumping out of your hand. Our suggestion is that you invest in a discharge machine that is safe, quiet, and predictable.

Have your Hard paddles been tested and do they function properly?

When testing a set of hard paddles of any make or model, you want to verify 3 things; First, pitted or mishandled paddles are a sign of rough wear and tear. Double check the coiled cable to ensure that there are no exposed wires that can malfunction. Secondly, test LED panels for confidence that all are functioning properly. Third, be confident that by testing one single shock button at a time, the action will not cause the paddles to discharge spontaneously.

Is my defibrillator analyzer safe?

Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer to this question is yes. However, if the cables are not securely positioned into the analyzer at the time of testing, the electrical charge may exit before reaching the analyzer, which can result in harm to the unit, the analyzer, and/or the technician. Please follow the Defib/AED analyzer’s manufacturer guidelines and remember to send it in for maintenance per OEM recommendations.

What has been the most unexpected result when testing a defibrillator in your shop?

In early years at ReNew Biomedical, we had a circuit board catch on fire as a result of unsafe levels of stored energy. If we had not had a fire extinguisher within arm’s length, our Biomeds or equipment could have sustained serious injury. Please scan your shop for placement of flammable and/or explosive materials in close proximity to your defibrillator work bench (ie, Oxygen tanks, cleaning chemicals, etc.). Major harm can easily be avoided by monitoring your work station materials and location to potentially harmful accessories around your Biomed shop.

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