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Why Do AED Pads Expire?

Published on 4th January 2024

AED pads expire and understanding why is crucial for device reliability during sudden cardiac arrest.

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are lifesaving devices used in cases of sudden cardiac arrest. They are designed to be user-friendly, allowing even untrained bystanders to offer prompt emergency assistance. An integral part of these devices is the AED pads, which, surprisingly to many, have an expiration date. Understanding why these pads expire is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness and reliability of AEDs in emergencies.

The gel in AED Pads

AED pads come with a conductive gel that facilitates the transfer of electrical impulses from the AED to the patient’s heart. This gel is essential for ensuring that the AED’s shock is effective and safe. Over time, this gel can dry out, reducing its conductivity. Once the gel dries, the pads may not adhere properly to the skin, leading to a poor connection and potentially less effective defibrillation.

The Integrity of the Pad Material

The material of the AED pads itself is subject to degradation. Exposure to air, temperature fluctuations, and humidity can deteriorate the pad material, compromising their functionality. This degradation can reduce flexibility, making it harder to achieve good contact with the patient’s skin, especially in challenging conditions.

Technological Updates and Compliance

Medical technology is continually advancing, and with these advancements, AEDs and their components are regularly updated to adhere to new standards and guidelines. Expiration dates ensure that users replace old pads with more recent versions that may have improved technology or be more in line with current medical recommendations.

Ensuring Reliability and Effectiveness

The expiration date is a safety measure to ensure that AEDs function reliably when needed. By replacing the pads regularly, users can be confident that the device will work as intended during a cardiac emergency. This reliability is critical, as the effectiveness of an AED can be the difference between life and death.

Legal and Manufacturer Guidelines

Manufacturers set expiration dates to meet legal and safety standards. These dates are determined based on extensive testing and are meant to guide users on when to replace the pads to ensure optimal performance. Ignoring these dates can lead to legal liabilities, especially in professional settings requiring AEDs.

Storage Conditions and Shelf Life

Their storage conditions can influence the shelf life of AED pads. Extreme temperatures, humidity, or exposure to light can accelerate the deterioration process. While manufacturers design these pads to be durable, they cannot withstand indefinite exposure to less-than-ideal storage conditions.

Can AED pads be used after the expiration date?

AED (Automated External Defibrillator) pads have an expiration date, and using them is generally not recommended beyond this date. The primary reason is the degradation of the conductive gel applied to the pads. This gel is essential for ensuring proper contact and electrical conductivity between the pads and the patient’s skin. Over time, the gel dries out and breaks down, diminishing its effectiveness.

When AED pads are used beyond their expiration date, several issues can arise:

1. Reduced Adhesion: The pads may not adhere properly to the skin, particularly during CPR. During chest compressions, the pads must maintain consistent contact with the skin. Expired pads with poor adhesion could pull away, disrupting this contact.

2. Ineffective Analysis and Therapy: The AED’s ability to analyse heart rhythms and deliver appropriate therapy depends on good pad-to-skin contact. If the pads don’t adhere well, the AED might not be able to provide an accurate analysis or deliver effective shocks.

3. Increased Risk in Emergencies: The overall chance of successfully aiding a sudden cardiac arrest patient diminishes if expired pads are used. This reduced efficiency can impact the patient’s chances of survival.

However, in an emergency where no other option is available, using expired AED pads is better than not using an AED at all. If an expired pad is only accessible, it should still be used. Nonetheless, calling for replacement pads as soon as possible is crucial. Expired pads should be a last resort, and every effort should be made to ensure that AEDs are equipped with unexpired pads to provide the best possible chance of survival in a cardiac emergency.

Rob Higgie

About The Author

Rob Higgie - Regional Sales Manager

Rob Higgie, Regional Sales Manager at Martek Lifecare, is an experienced community first responder with 11 years of experience in the field, and as of January 2023, he’s attended 86 cardiac arrests, resulting in 28 ROSCs (return of spontaneous circulation).

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