AED History

Heart attack (cardiac arrest) became a leading cause of death after the turn of the century. Humans have always suffered from cardiac problems, but they usually died from causes such as infectious disease, long before reaching an age where heart problems threatened their life. As the world of medicine has advanced and people are living longer, heart disease has become a serious health issue.

Claude Beck (1894-1971) was a pioneer of heart surgery, he focused on operations to improve circulation in damaged heart muscles. He also developed ways to revive heart attack victims, including the defibrillator and CPR

In 1947, Beck successfully defibrillated his first patient, a 14-year-old boy whose heart went into fibrillation after an operation. The defibrillator used on this patient was made by James Rand, a friend of Beck. It had silver paddles (the size of large tablespoons) that were used in open-chest situations. Rand made two defibrillators that first year of 1947: one can be found in the Smithsonian, and the other in The Bakken's collections.

Nine years later (1956) Paul Zoll used a more powerful unit to perform the first closed-chest defibrillation.

In Belfast , ambulance-transported physicians first achieved pre-hospital defibrillation in 1966. Defibrillation by EMT’s (emergency medical technicians), without the presence of physicians, was first performed in Oregon , in 1969.

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