Are AEDs and Pacemakers the Same Thing?

a zoll aed next to a defibrillator in a studio image

When someone’s heart suddenly stops working properly, you may have seen a Defibrillator (AED) get deployed to help. These portable devices can analyze the heart’s rhythm and deliver a controlled electric shock if needed.

It makes you wonder. Do Defibrillators and Pacemakers do the same thing? Absolutely not! Defibrillators and pacemakers are two totally separate devices that work in very different ways.

One provides an emergency restart shock, while the other gently regulates an irregular heartbeat over time. Mixing up these two life-savers is a common mistake, so let’s clear the confusion.

What an AED Actually Does

An AED is a special piece of equipment used when someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, meaning their heart has completely lost control of its rhythm and stopped pumping blood through the chest properly.

To use it you stick some pads to the person’s bare chest and turn it on.

When activated, the Defibrillator can rapidly assess the heart’s electrical activity. If it detects a that a shock could help reset the heart it tells you to stand clear and gives the person a zap. This jolt of energy is intended to stun and reset the heart so it can hopefully restart beating in a normal rhythm.

But the key thing is – the AED’s role is just a temporary intervention to restart the heart. Once emergency services have things under control the pads are removed and it has served its purpose of preventing death from the cardiac arrest episode.

How a Pacemaker is Completely Different

In contrast, a pacemaker is a small implantable device that gets surgically inserted just under the skin near the shoulder. It has insulated wires that get permanently attached to the heart’s chambers.

The pacemaker’s job is to continuously monitor the heart’s electrical signals 24/7 and provide gentle electrical pulses as needed over years. Those small pulses prompt the heart to maintain a suitable rate and rhythm if it starts beating too slowly or erratically.

Rather than an emergency restart, a pacemaker works long-term to regulate the heart’s function. Those electrical pulses gently ensure it keeps ticking properly, not shock it back to life.

Two Separate Purposes

The bottom line is that Defibrillators and Pacemakers are different.

A Defibrillator is used in emergencies to get the heart pumping again whereas a pacemaker regulates the heart’s rhythmic beating continuously over many years.

The only similarity is they both use electricity to influence the heart. So while both are vital pieces of technology, they are absolutely not the same thing at all.

If you’d like to learn more about how defibrillators work check out or how they work article.

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