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12 October 2008

On this day in history: Iron lung used for first time, 1928

In 1928, Philip Drinker and Dr. Louis Agassiz Shaw, of the Harvard School of Public Health, invented a machine to treat those that suffered from coal gas poisoning. The device, called a negative pressure ventilator, was an air-tight container into which the patient was placed. By varying the air pressure within, the device enabled the patient to breathe and as a result the machine becoming popularly known as the iron lung.

At Boston Children's Hospital on 12th October 1928, an eight-year-old girl suffering from respitory failure due to paralysis of the diaphragm brought about by polio became the first person to be treated using the iron lung. A local tinsmith had constructed the tank, and two vacuum cleaner pumps were used to vary the air presure. The patient's head remained outside this early version of the iron lung, but despite it's basic construction the machine's effects were dramatic: within seconds the girl was breathing again.

2 comments:

carol at A Second Cup said...

My mom had a mild case of polio. The iron lung is a scary reminded of what once was and the lengths medicine went to save lives.

Stepterix said...

Thanks for sharing