How Do Iron Lungs Work?

How Do Iron Lungs Work?

Have You Ever Wondered...

  • What illness did iron lungs treat?
  • How do iron lungs work?
  • Do people still use iron lungs?

What inventions have actually changed your life? Over the course of human history, there have been several. Just take a look at the medical industry, for instance. Vaccines, anesthesia, and the stethoscope are just a few examples of innovations that have revolutionized this field. A new medical invention is the subject of today's discussion. People who couldn't breathe on their own benefited from this prior to the invention of respirators. That's correct, we're studying the iron lung today. Although they are less frequent now, iron lungs formerly were a common sight in hospitals. They were created in 1928 and provided polio treatment for severe cases. This sickness, which mainly affected children, could have serious consequences. It might potentially result in paralysis.

Patients in these situations might possibly stop breathing. This occurred as a result of the virus's impact on the diaphragm, a muscle found below the lungs. After a few weeks or months of utilizing an iron lung, many of these individuals were able to breathe normally once more. Others lived their entire lives reliant on the device.
How do the iron lungs function? They are dependent on air pressure. Patients are placed on sliding beds to start the treatment. The bed is pushed into the machine, which is a big metal tube, by a nurse or doctor. Only the patients' heads remain outside the tube once they are inside the lung. Air cannot escape the machine because of a rubber seal around their neck.

The air pressure inside the tube rises when the iron lung is turned on. As a result, the patient's lungs contract and must exhale. The air pressure then drops. The patient then inhales as their lungs expand as a result of this. Patients who start using an iron lung spend the majority of their time within the device. Until they can breathe on their own, they may only be removed for a few minutes each day. They therefore depend on nurses, doctors, and other hospital personnel for assistance with activities of daily living like eating and dressing.

Is the iron lung still in use today? Yes, but there are very few of them. Paul Alexander, who was diagnosed with polio at the age of six in 1952, is one illustration. Alexander can now leave the lung for brief periods of time, even hours. He has had a fulfilling life and a successful job as an attorney because of the breathing assistance he receives from this machine.

Since 1979, there hasn't been a new case of polio in the United States thanks to vaccinations. Alexander has had trouble locating iron lung replacement parts as a result. Finding people to fix the machine is another challenge. Alexander must pay for the machine's maintenance out of his own money because he depends on it for living.

Have you ever witnessed a functioning iron lung? Hospitals now substitute contemporary respirators for these equipment. Still, many children who got polio in the 20th century are alive today thanks to the iron lung. Do you know of any other medical innovations that have impacted society?