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Who invented the defibrillator

Who invented the defibrillator?

The invention of the defibrillator actually came in many incremental breakthroughs making it hard to identify the exact inventor. This article will unpack all the significant events that lead to the modern-day external defibrillator and how they are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) for diseases of the human heart. We hope to answer your question about who invented the defibrillator in this article and what is an external defibrillator.

Life-Threatening Cardiac Dysrhythmias

A cardiac arrhythmia (arrhythmia) is an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. Your heart might beat too quickly or too slowly if you have dysrhythmia. You might feel dizziness, nausea, or shortness of breath. Or your heart rhythm could be disrupted, causing you to believe that your heart has stopped. Dysrhythmias are only dangerous if they aren’t treated but can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Two types of arrhythmia are particularly hazardous:

  • Tachycardia: A heart rate that’s too fast (beats per minute)
  • Bradycardia: A heart rate that’s too slow

Both of these types of arrhythmia may require treatment with an external defibrillator.

Life-Threatening Cardiac Dysrhythmias


An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a battery-powered device placed under your skin that monitors your heart. It corrects arrhythmias with electrical shocks. You might need an ICD if you have had a heart attack or other serious heart problems, such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.

An external defibrillator is a device that’s used to treat tachycardia and fibrillation. It uses electrical shocks to reset your heart’s rhythm. External defibrillators can be found in many public places, such as airports, casinos, and stadiums. They’re also used by first responders, such as paramedics and police officers.

Ventricular Fibrillation & Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart condition that causes the upper chambers of your heart (the atria) to quiver. This can lead to blood pooling and an increased risk of clot formation. AFib is the most common type of arrhythmia.

Ventricular Fibrillation & Atrial Fibrillation

Ventricular fibrillation (VFib) is a life-threatening heart condition that occurs when the lower chambers of your heart (the ventricles) quiver. This prevents your heart from pumping blood and can lead to cardiac arrest. VFib is the most dangerous type of arrhythmia.

Both AFib and VFib are treated with electrical shocks. However, the shocks used to treat AFib are different from the shocks used to treat VFib.

AFib can be treated with cardioversion, which is a procedure that uses electrical shocks to restore your heart’s normal rhythm. Cardioversion can be done as an outpatient procedure or in a hospital setting.

VFib must be treated with an immediate electrical shock. This is called defibrillation. Defibrillation is a life-saving procedure that is done in a hospital setting.

External defibrillators are used to treat both AFib and VFib. however, the type of electrical shock delivered by an external defibrillator is different for each condition.

History of Defibrillator Development

Since the late 1800s, when Physiologist Jean-Louis Prevost and Frédéric Batelli of the University of Geneva discovered that electrical shocks could induce ventricular fibrillation (VFib) in dogs, defibrillation has been utilized. Ventricular fibrillation is an out-of-control irregular heart rhythm that requires immediate treatment in the human heart. The first successful clinical application of synchronized electrical shocks to a patient in cardiac arrest was documented in 1947 by Claude Beck, a heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. This early defibrillator used vacuum tube technology.

In 1957, William Kouwenhoven and James Jude, electrical engineers at Johns Hopkins University School, developed an external non-invasive closed-chest defibrillation to provide an external electrical shock for a victim of cardiac arrest.

History of Defibrillator Development

In 1933, Dr. Albert Hyman and C. Henry Hyman, a cardiac surgeon and electrical engineer, developed the Hyman Otor at Beth Davis Hospital in New York City. Using this device, a jolt was sent via an insulated wire to the right auricle of the heart through a hollow steel needle inserted the heart through the rib cage.

Portable defibrillators revolutionized resuscitation techniques in the 1950s when they made it simpler for doctors to save lives. Gurvich Peleška, a Slovak inventor, created the Prema defibrillator in 1955, which was smaller and more portable than previous versions and was produced initially in the Soviet Union. In the satellite countries of Poland, the Prema model (designed for transportability) was more popular than in other parts of Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union’s Department of Public Health and Hygiene launched Gurvich’s defibrillator for portable use under the DPA-3 name in 1959.

The closed-chest electric cardiac defibrillator delivers a shock, which has helped save hundreds of lives since its inception, was invented by Dr. Bennett Kouwenhoven, a Brooklyn-born doctor and one of the world’s leading authorities on electricity and cardiac rhythm management.

What exactly is a Defibrillator?

During sudden cardiac arrest, a defibrillator is a medical device that delivers an electric shock to the heart to treat cardiac arrhythmia. A defibrillator uses an electrical jolt to cause the heart muscle to return to its natural, healthy rhythm. The device includes electrodes, a current generator, and timing controls to provide a controlled electrical shock to cardiac arrest victims.

In 1947, Dr. William Kouwenhoven performed the first defibrillation on dogs and pigs as part of a study for the Netherlands Society for Therapeutic Engineering at Mount Sinai Hospital, directed by Willem Einthoven.

Dr. Paul Zoll invented the first modern defibrillator in 1947 while serving as a medical resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

He began a career in medicine after graduating from law school, specializing in medical trauma. He is credited with pioneering the field of medicine. With his brother Charles Zoll, he created Physio-Control Corporation in 1968, which revolutionized external defibrillation by developing automated external defibrillation.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Defined?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. If this happens, blood flow to the brain and other vital organs is interrupted, and SCA usually leads to death within minutes if not treated immediately.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Defined

SCA is caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF). In VF, the heart’s ventricles (the lower chambers) quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood. This quivering prevents blood from being pumped out to the body and results in death within minutes.

SCA is not the same as a heart attack, although a heart attack can lead to SCA.

More than 360,000 people each year suffer sudden cardiac arrest and almost 90% are fatal. The majority of those who succumb to an SCA fall victim to it without any prior symptoms. They appear to be in excellent health for one minute and then collapse suddenly. A person who has suffered a cardiac arrest should be given CPR and defibrillation as soon as possible. According to statistics, the probability of survival decreases by 10% for each minute that passes before defibrillation. There is a very low probability of survival after 10 minutes. CPR will temporarily force the heart to pump blood throughout the body enabling some oxygen to reach the vital organs.

The First Successful Defibrillation?

Open Chest Defibrillation

In 1947, Dr. Claude Beck used a defibrillator to successfully restart a 14-year-old boy’s heart after the young man had gone into cardiac arrest. When Dr. Beck was able to restart the young man’s heart during open-chest surgery it marked the first successful defibrillation in history. Dr. Beck was responsible for developing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) as well.

Closed Chest Defibrillation

Previously, only open-chest defibrillation was effective on the heart if the patient’s chest cavity was opened during surgery. The contemporary automated external defibrillator (AED) was made possible by a significant medical technology development that took place outside of the operating room. John Lewis developed a closed-chest defibrillator device that could be utilized by non-medical personnel in 1957 while working at University College Hospital in London, England.

Modern Emergency Medical Services

Dr. Frank Pantridge, a surgeon and emergency practitioner in Ireland, created the first portable version of a defibrillator in 1963 with the goal of making it available to all emergency workers such as police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics. This led to the development of the first ambulance service in the world that specialized in cardiac emergencies with a portable version of an automated external defibrillator as standard equipment. This is the precursor of the modern ambulance and EMTs around the world.

Why did Frank Pantridge invent the defibrillator?

Dr. Frank Pantridge installed his first portable defibrillator in ambulances. Prof Frank Pantridge said the device was not intended as a way to earn money, but rather purely as a means of saving lives. Some patients had a cardiac arrest when the heart stopped and there was no portable device available in the field.

First-person to use an Automated External Defibrillator?

The first defibrillators were very large, bulky devices that necessitated the participation of a team of people. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, Dr. James “Frank” Francis “Pantridge” developed the portable defibrillator in the mid-1960s. This was before the invention of today’s automated external cardiac resuscitation equipment. Professor Frank Pantridge is acknowledged as the father of emergency medicine, thanks to the invention of the first portable defibrillator also known as automatic external defibrillators. Pantridge’s original design was propelled by a motorbike battery and weighed 154 pounds (70kgs). In 1968, Pantridge created his second design, which reduced the weight to 6.61 pounds (3kgs). However, there is a dispute as to whether Frank Pantridge’s invention was truly the first AED. The first documented animal studies assessing the viability of restarting a heart with electricity took place in the 18th century. Dr. Pantridge was the first to use an AED on a person and the inventor of the first defibrillator for use in an ambulance setting.

After a heart attack in Virginia in 1972, Lyndon B. Johnson was treated with the Frank Pantridge Defibrillator, a portable defibrillator.

Significant Increased Survival Rates

AEDs have increased the survival rates for people who experience sudden cardiac arrest. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, AEDs have increased survival rates by as much as 40%.

AEDs Save Lives

The availability of new, more sophisticated AEDs has made it possible to place far more defibrillators in businesses and public areas, and even homes. More accessibility to AEDs has made early defibrillation more common. It has also made such vital equipment easier for individuals without medical expertise to use. It’s still tough to persuade more people to use AEDs. However, one of the major issues is accessibility; emergency services often take too long to arrive at the scene and save a person who is suffering from a cardiac arrest event. If you see someone you suspect is suffering a sudden cardiac arrest, don’t hesitate, act immediately, and don’t be afraid to follow the directions of an AED including administering CPR. You just might save a life. We are thankful that so many were involved in the history of who invented the defibrillator and their hard work and amazing minds have saved countless lives over the past 100 years.



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