Defibrillation was first presented by Prevost and Batelli


Two physiologists from the University of Geneva, Switzerland in 1899. In animal studies, they observed that small electric shocks delivered to the heart could trigger ventricular fibrillation, while the delivery of large electrical charges could reverse the fibrillation.


In 1947, the procedure was used for the first time in a human patient. Claude Beck, Professor of surgery, at Case Western Reserve University treated a 14-year-old boy undergoing a surgical procedure for a chest defect and managed to restore a normal sinus rhythm in the boy’s heart.

The early forms of defibrillator delivered a charge of between 300 and 1000 volts to the heart using “paddle” type electrodes. However, the units had major drawbacks such as the need for open-heart surgery, the transformers were large and difficult to transport, and a post-mortem examination showed the technique was damaging to the heart muscles. Furthermore, the technique was often unsuccessful in actually reversing ventricular fibrillation.

In the 1950s, an alternative method of delivering an electric shock to the heart was pioneered by V.Eskin and colleague A. Klimov from the USSR. Rather than the paddle electrodes used in open heart surgery, the closed-chest device could apply a charge of over 1000 volts through nodes applied to the outside of the chest cage.

It was in 1959 that Bernard Lown and engineer Barouh Berkovits developed a way of delivering the charge using resistance to create a less strong sinusoidal wave that would last 5 milliseconds using paddle electrodes. The researchers also established the optimal timing regarding when shocks should be delivered, which enabled the application of the technique in other cases of arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and one form of tachycardia.

This technique was termed the Lown-Berkovits waveform and it became the standard defibrillation treatment to be used into the late 1980s. Thereafter, the biphasic truncated waveform (BTE) was adopted as an equally effective waveform that required less charge to achieve defibrillation. The unit was also lighter to transport. The BTE waveform in conjunction with automatic transthoracic impedance measurement forms the basis of the modern defibrillator.

Today’s portable defibrillators were introduced in the early 1960s by Prof. Frank Pantridge in Belfast. Today, these tools are essential medical equipment, in fact, since 2009 they are now found throughout villages, towns and cities and are usable by professionals and laypersons. For an in-depth read of how the Defibrillator has developed over time see an excellent article below...

Idiot Proofing The Defibrillator

Back To Defibrillators

 

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