Hands-on defibrillation with a safety barrier: An analysis of potential risk to rescuers

Resuscitation. 2019 May;138:110-113. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2019.02.043. Epub 2019 Mar 9.


Background: Interruptions in compressions reducethe efficacy of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and are inevitable during hands-off periods for shocks. Clinical exam gloves were found to facilitate safe contact with patients during shock delivery but the safety of this practice has been questioned. Polyethylene is of interest because of its safety record in the medical arena and its electrical insulation properties.

Methods: This study measured the current leak through 2 mil (0.002 inch) polyethylene drapes during shock delivery. The current leak was assessed by measurement of voltage changes in a circuit recommended by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for current leak safety testing. Current flowed off the drape, through the circuit and to electric ground in a manner consistent with standardized testing. Perceptibility was assessed in a subset with the investigator's bare hands pressed into the drape during shock delivery.

Results: Thirty-three patients undergoing elective cardioversion at Emory University Hospital underwent analysis (age 23-90, 36% female). Biphasic energies were 200-360 J. The root mean square (RMS) current leak averaged 0.072 ± 0.022 mA and peak current leak averaged 0.67 ± 0.21 which is well below IEC recommendations of 3.5 mA RMS and 5.0 mA peak. Finally, no instances of dielectric breakdown occurred and no shocks were perceptible.

Conclusions: Polyethylene is a common medical material which may facilitate safe hands-on defibrillation. Our data illustrates that a thin, semitransparent layer of polyethylene is a safe and feasible adjunct to cardiac arrest kits to allow continued compressions and simplification of the CPR process.

Keywords: Chest compressions; Defibrillation; Rescuer safety.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / prevention & control
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / methods*
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Defibrillators / adverse effects
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Countershock* / adverse effects
  • Electric Countershock* / methods
  • Electric Injuries* / etiology
  • Electric Injuries* / prevention & control
  • Gloves, Surgical / standards*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy*
  • Heart Massage / methods*
  • Humans
  • Materials Testing / methods
  • Polyethylene
  • Safety*


  • Polyethylene