Are the AED pads interchangeable?

Medical Examiner, Emergency Physician, former paramedic

Donald J. Linder, DO


Answer: No AED pads are interchangeable between public access defibrillator models. However, there are a few public access AED devices that are high-end brand name devices that allow for adapters and compatibility with EMS models for Zoll, Philips or Medtronic (Physio Control).

Many times EMS agencies/personnel will ask their area businesses considering an AED purchase to consider this feature because they say it saves them time and resources when arriving on the scene.  They can take an already adhered set of pads and then hook them up to their machines and start treatment sooner under their watch.  Of course, I understand why they would want to save time and decrease use of resources.  But, what has to be considered is “WILL EMS ACTUALLY USE THE PADS PUT ON BY A LAY RESCUER?”

As an industry expert, medical director, ER Physician and former paramedic, I can tell you that the vast majority of volunteer and paid EMS/1st responders medical direction personnel have put protocols in place that do not promote this practice, in order to decrease malpractice liability and potential lawsuits.

While some AED reps (only those who have adapters) promote this feature the problem is that litigation fears in the real world makes it very hard to follow through on something that appears to make a ton of sense.

What is a medical director’s opinion on this matter? If the pads are applied incorrectly there is an element of unknown in the treatment of the patient.  Ideally, they will not use the pads placed with the AED but rather will remove those and apply their own set of AED pads that they know are applied correctly. They know have not expired or are not recalled and in fact do work properly, and that they know are OK to use to treat their patient.

With this mindset, the adaptable pads feature appears to be something that is overpriced and not worth the debate which it creates, when the feature is being promoted in the public access defibrillation market where pads are placed by layrescuers and untrained EMS professionals.

Bottom line:  what does the local EMS squad’s medical director have to say on this issue? It is better to let them weigh in and give their opinion as it may save time and resources in the AED selection process for area public access defibrillation programs.
Donald James Linder, D.O.

Medical Director

Linn County Medical Examiner

IA Licensed Physician #02997

One Response to Are the AED pads interchangeable?

  1. Kerry says:

    Between individual AED devices, pads are not interchangeable, but within a system (on most devices), either pad can be placed at alternate site. For instance, pad marked heart can be placed over right ribs/side and vice versa. Some models will not allow pads to be reversely applied though – look at your owner’s manual!

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