The first signs
Dr Peter Christian Abildgaard succeeds in stopping the heart of a hen with an electric shock, and subsequently restarting it with a countershock.
Moritz Hoffa, a student of Carl Ludwig uses electricity to induce arrhythmia in a dog’s heart; this is the first time ventricular fibrillation is witnessed and documented.
Cause of death
John MacWilliam recognizes the action of the automatic nervous system in the mechanical and electrical properties of the heart. He proposes that ventricular fibrillation has a role in the genesis of sudden death in human beings.
A chance discovery
Jean Louis Prevost and Frederic Batelli induce ventricular fibrillation in a dog using a small shock of electricity, they also record in a footnote that a larger shock stopped the fibrillation and returned the heart to a normal rhythm.
Baltimore, MD, USA
From theory …
William B. Kouwenhoven and physiologists at John Hopkins University publish results of an experiment; confirming that ventricular fibrillation could be reversed in dogs. Kouwenhoven and his team used internally applied alternating current to produce a shock that returned the heart to normal rhythm.
Behind the Iron Curtain
While completing his PhD; Dr Naum Gurvich finds that using alternating current causes damage to the myocardium, preventing spontaneous recovery of the sinus rhythm. Gurvich co-authors a paper with Dr. G. Yuniev, in which they proposed the use of capacitor discharge for defibrillation which has higher safety and efficacy; instead of an alternating current.
Cleveland, OH, USA
… to Practice
Familiar with the work of Carl J. Wiggers at the nearby Western Reserve University and using interally applied alternating current; Claude Beck successfully revives a 14-year-old boy during surgery and performs the world’s first defibrillation.
Back in the USSR
The “closed chest” method of defibrillation is pioneered by Dr V. Eskin with the assistance of A. Klimov in Frunze (now Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan). They apply external electrodes and send an alternating voltage through the rib cage to the heart.
Boston, MA, USA
Based on further research by William Kouwenhoven, and his own research completed on the external pacemaker; Dr Paul Zoll performes the first successful “closed chest” defibrillation of a human heart in the West.
Boston, MA, USA
The Lown waveform
Dr Bernard Lown commences research into an alternative method of defibrillation with the help of engineer Barouh Berkovits. They charge a bank of capacitors and deliver the charge through an inductance producing a heavily dampened sinusoidal wave sent to the heart. The Lown-Berkovits waveform remained the standard for defibrillation in the West until the 1980s.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Realising the need for pre-hospital treatment; Frank Pantridge develops a portable defibrillator, and installs one in a Belfast ambulance. The initial unit weighted 70kg, but just 3-years later (1968); using capacitors developed at NASA, Pantridge had developed a defibrillator that weighed only 3kg.
A safer shock
Dr Naum Gurvich makes another breakthrough; developing the biphasic waveform, with a lower energy requirement it is safer for patients and enables the manufacture of smaller and light defibrillators, paving the way for the AED.
Portland, OR, USA
The final step
Surgeon Arch Diack demonstrates the world's first AED. The device was able to detect if the patient's heart was stopped or fibrillating and deliver a shock automatically.
A worldwide life-saver!
The modern AED
Today’s modern AEDs use advanced algorithms to detect a shockable arrhythmia in a patient before delivering a life-saving shock automatically, or at the push of a button. They are able to coach users on CPR and are designed to be used by the general public.
P. Abildgaard. Tentamina electria in animalibus instituta, 1775
M. Hoffa and C. Ludwig. Einige neue Versuche uber Herzbewegung, 1850
J. MacWilliam. Cardiac failure and sudden death, 1889
J. L. Prevost and F. Batelli. Some effects of electrical discharges on the heart of mammals, 1899
W. B. Kouwenhoven and R. Hooker. Resuscitation by countershock, 1933
N. Gurvich and G. Yuniev. Restoration of normal function in fibrillating heart of warm-blooded animals by condenser discharge, 1939
C. Beck, W. Pritchard and H. Feil. Ventricular fibrillation of long duration abolished by electric shock, 1947
P. Zoll et al. Termination of ventricular fibrillation in man by externally applied electric countershock, 1956
M. Eisenberg. Bernard Lown and defibrillation, 2006
N. Gurvich and V. Makarychev. Defibrillation of heart by the biphasic waveform, 1968 A. Diack et al. Cardiac resuscitator and monitoring apparatus, 1978