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How to use a wearable defibrillator

Image of a Zoll Life vest

(Videos have been reviewed by NEHH and are provided for the sole purpose of education. It is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.) – Video by Zoll Life Vest wearable defibrillator – Video by Zoll Life vest wearable defibrillator – Video by Zoll Life Vest wearable defibrillator

What is a wearable defibrillator?

A wearable defibrillator is a device that monitors your heartbeats and will deliver an electric shock if needed. If your heart should stop beating, the wearable defibrillator will deliver a shock to your heart. An electric shock can often restore your heartbeat in the event of sudden cardiac arrest

The two parts to a wearable defibrillator

The first part of the system we will discuss is the vest. This lightweight vest is to be worn under your clothes, and it should be in direct contact with your skin. The vest is held in place by two shoulder straps and a strap that wraps around your abdomen. Electrodes inside the vest sense your heartbeat.

The second part is a battery-powered unit that you can wear around your belt, or you can also wear it by placing the strap over your shoulder. This unit, no bigger than a fanny pack, has several different components. It is attached to the vest by wires, and it monitors your heartbeat. It is powered by a battery that lasts 24 hours.

Your primary care team will decide if a wearable defibrillator is needed in your case. You will be provided with an instruction manual. You should learn how to charge the batteries as well as having additional batteries with your equipment. You should always keep your instruction manual with you.

Why do you need a wearable defibrillator?

Your primary care team may prescribe a wearable defibrillator if you are having arrhythmias. An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death. Two types of arrhythmias that can lead to cardiac arrest if not corrected are: 

  1. Ventricular tachycardia. (The bottom chamber of your heart beats fast) 
  2. Ventricular Fibrillation. (The bottom chamber of your heartbeat is very irregular and weak.)

Wearable defibrillators are usually temporary solutions. Your primary care provider will decide if an implanted defibrillator may be best for you.

How does it work?

YouTube Video Link:

Your device will have different alerts. You should refer you your instruction manual for more information on the types of alerts. If you are in danger, your vest will vibrate. It will send you an alarm you can hear and verbal instructions you can hear and read on the monitor.

If you are awake and feel your vest vibrate, listen to your device for instructions. If your device senses an arrhythmia, it will prompt that a shock is advisable. If you are awake, you will need to press the red button on the device to delay shock. Please note, it is especially important that NO ONE presses that red button other than yourself. Your device will tell you to call 911 if it continues to sense an arrhythmia. It will also tell you to call your primary care provider if your arrhythmia has stopped.

If you have a cardiac arrest and you lose consciousness, your unit will: 

  • Send up to five shocks to restart your heart. 
  • Sound a verbal alarm to let others know a shock is coming, warn them to not touch you, and instruct them to call 911. 
  • If you lose consciousness and are given shocks by the device, you or someone else should always call emergency medical services. 

Carrying for your wearable defibrillator (TIPS)

  • Do NOT wear anything under the vest. The electrodes in the vest need to have contact with your skin.
  • Do NOT get the vest wet.
  • Only take the vest off to take a quick shower. We recommend having someone close by should you have an emergency while the vest is off.
  • DO NOT drop your vest.
  • Follow your instruction manual for cleaning recommendations.

Get help right away

  • If you have a sudden cardiac arrest that triggered your vest to restart your heart.
  • If your alarm goes off and the monitor says to call emergency medical services. Even if you have not had a sudden cardiac arrest.

As always! We are here to help. At NEHH we strive to provide education and make information readily available. This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.

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What is the lifevest wearable defibrillator? Zoll LifeVest. What is the LifeVest Wearable Defibrillator? | ZOLL LifeVest. (n.d.). Retrieved January 2, 2022, from

zollmedical. (2017, August 24). Lifevest Patient Education Video Chapter 5 responding to lifevest alerts. YouTube. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from 

zollmedical. (2020, July 29). Zoll LifeVest first Responder Video. YouTube. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from 

zollmedical. (2013, November 20). Zoll LifeVest wearable defibrillator. YouTube. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from 

MedStar Health InFocus. (n.d.). Wearable Cardioverter defibrillator. MedStar Health InFocus. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from 

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