AED Pad Placement Guide

This this blog, we’re going to discuss pad placement: why it’s important, the right way to do it, and common mistakes that people make when using AEDs. 

As we discussed in our previous post, AEDs are used when somebody has a sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs are designed so that anybody – regardless of medical training – can use them, but rescuers will still have to place the electrode pads on the chest. This can be an intimidating step in rescue process for some, so we’re going to cover all of the basics:

Pad placement: why does it matter?

The way an AED works is by sending an electrical pulse through the heart muscles to regulate its beating. In order to do this properly, the pads (electrodes) need to be positioned so the electricity flows properly and targets the correct muscles.

Two steps to proper placement

AED pad placement diagramBefore we begin, a brief note on lefts and rights: we will be talking about the patient’s left/right anatomy, which will be the opposite of what it looks like when you’re standing over the victim.

  1. The first pad goes under the patient’s right collarbone, above the peck
  2. The second pad goes on the left chest, under the armpit. 

Most AEDs will come with both visual and verbal instructions for how to place pads correctly. But, for your understanding, this diagram shows where the pads should be placed in relation to the heart. When working with small children and infants, one pad should be placed in the center of the chest, and the other in the center of the back. 


Common mistakes to avoid

Many people have a hard time placing the second pad on the left chest wall. As you can see in the diagram above, this needs to be placed off to the side of the chest, below the armpit. Some rescuers make the mistake of putting it directly on the center of the chest, which could make the shock less effective. 

Another issue that some rescuers face is clothing / undergarments / excessive chest hair on victims. All of these can interfere with the shock and should be removed before placing the pads. While this may feel uncomfortable, the victim’s life depends on proper electrode function. Many AEDs come with scissors and/or a razor to make clothing/hair removal more efficient.

Once you have this part figured out, you can focus on administering CPR and potentially delivering a shock to the victim. The AED should guide you through these steps until professional help arrives.

Written by BlaireWritten by Blaire Czarniecki

Customer Service Director

Blaire attended the University of Tennessee where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology- Child and Family Studies. She has been in the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) industry for over eight years and is the Director of Customer Service for Coro Medical. Blaire is also an American Red Cross-certified CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor, highly trained by each manufacturer on their specific AEDs, and knowledgeable regarding ALL State AED regulations and legislation.“I know that every day I come to work, I am playing a part in saving someone’s life. I am passionate about these devices and am always looking for new and innovative ways to spread awareness and knowledge about Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). I look forward to the day when everywhere I go, I will see an AED—when SCA will no longer take any lives.”

Last updated May 24, 2021.