Monday, March 08, 2010

The History of Defibrillation

.. told in the New York Times:
While the surgeon massaged the man’s heart manually, the article said, “a makeshift ‘defibrillator’ was rigged to administer instantaneous electric shock treatment.”

The article described a process that was shocking in more ways than one. When the man’s heart went into ventricular fibrillation — an event that means death in less than five minutes — operating room workers hooked two copper electrodes to an examining lamp that happened to be in the room, touched the other ends to the man’s heart, and shocked it into normal rhythm.

The “Philadelphia specialist” who dared to attach the wires “requested that his name be withheld from publication,” no doubt with good reason. But whoever he was, he was probably up to date on the latest in defibrillation. He may have known of a report, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association seven months earlier, of the first case of ventricular fibrillation in a human successfully treated with electric shock — an apparently dead 14-year-old boy brought back to life. He did not read of it in The Times, which took no note of it.
... just as the current article failed to mention that the first young man actually fibrillated from digitalis toxicity as tachycardia was being treated under anesthesia.

Imagine if that happened today.

Boy, we've come a long way, haven't we?


Reference: Barnett A. Greene, M.D. "Ventricular Fibrillation Abolished by Electric Shock" J Am Med Assoc. 1948;136(4):279.

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