Human Body

What Happens to Your Body When a Defibrillator Is Used on You

Defibrillation is a wildly misunderstood process. Hollywood, as Ken Jennings notes, is way behind the times on this. The paddles? Yelling “clear”? “Jump starting” flat-lining patients like they’re an old jalopy? Please. These days, automated defibrillation using sticky pads is where it’s at, and defibrillation is the last thing flat-lining patients need. So what is being defibrillated like in the real world? What happens to your body when a defibrillator is used on you?

What defibrillators feel like varies depending on which kind is used. The implanted kind, for example, “fire” when you’re conscious, and people say they’re intensely painful. Patients are haunted by the pain they experience with these things, even if they ultimately agree that they’re worth it. The old school paddles, however, are never used on conscious patients and the automated kind “sense” whether or not you need them before they fire. That said, science tells us that the pain of all defibrillation, while unique on a case-by-case basis—all pain is subjective, eh?—is essentially the same (i.e., it sucks). Read on to find out more about what defibrillation really feels like. Clear!