Philip Drinker, PhD (1894-1972), and Charles McKhann, MD (1898-1988), at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard published a paper describing successful use of an artificial respirator for patients suffering from paralytic polio.
The machine, first known as the Drinker respirator and later as the iron lung, would provide temporary and in some cases, permanent breathing support for people suffering paralysis of the diaphragm and intracostal muscles, which are essential for respiration.
The Drinker respirator was a sealed tube-like structure, powered by electricity. The patient’s head extended from the tube, and the body, with a rubber seal at the neck, was entirely enclosed by the tube. Decreased pressure forced air into the lungs, and increased pressure forced air out.
- The iron lung provided breathing support for paralyzed polio patients
The iron lung, or Drinker respirator as it was first known, provides temporary and in some cases, permanent breathing support for people suffering paralysis of the diaphragm and intracostal muscles, which are essential for respiration. The iron lung was developed in 1929, and it came to be an important tool for the care of sufferers of paralytic polio. Monkeys are evident in the iron lung in this photograph, which may document a study or demonstration of the machine's effectiveness.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Diseases & Vaccines