12th Day of October

1928 – An iron lung respirator is used for the first time at Boston Children’s Hospital

An iron lung, also known as a tank ventilator or Drinker tank, is a type of negative pressure ventilator (NPV); a mechanical respirator which encloses most of a person’s body, and varies the air pressure in the enclosed space, to stimulate breathing.

It assists breathing when muscle control is lost, or the work of breathing exceeds the person’s ability.

In 1670, English scientist John Mayow came up with the idea of external negative pressure ventilation. Mayow built a model consisting of bellows and a bladder to pull in and expel air.

1928 – An iron lung respirator is used for the first time at Boston Children's Hospital

The first of these devices to be widely used was developed in 1928 by Drinker and Shaw of the United States.

The first clinical use of the Drinker respirator on a human was on 12 October 1928, at the Boston Children’s Hospital in the US. The subject was an eight-year-old girl who was nearly dead as a result of respiratory failure due to polio. Her dramatic recovery, within less than a minute of being placed in the chamber, helped popularize the new device.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic revived some interest in the device as a cheap, readily-producible substitute for positive-pressure ventilators, which were feared to be outnumbered by potential victims temporarily needing artificially assisted respiration.

Extra Note: The use of iron lungs is largely obsolete in modern medicine, as superior breathing therapies have been developed.

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