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The Iron Lung

In the cases of polio that paralyzed the muscles necessary for breathing the so-called iron lung was developed in the mid-1900s. The iron lung is an artificial respirator. The patient's body is enclosed in a metal tank that uses air pressure changes to expand and contract the chest walls. In the 1920s a physiologist named Philip Drinker invented this innovative way of dealing with the respiratory problems of polio patients. The iron lung used a continuous power source which made it superior to existing respirators.

Drinker's original design was improved by physicians to increase the patient's care and comfort. The medical community depended on the iron lung in the treatment of patients with paralysis of the respiratory muscles. It was heavily used during the polio epidemic of 1931. Large, hospital-based respirator centers were developed to care for the many polio patients with respiratory paralysis. These centers were the predecessors of today's intensive care units.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Planck mass to PositPoliomyelitis - Incubation And Natural Immunity, The Iron Lung, World Eradication Of Polio, Feasibility For Eradication