Of course, they have special little theories for how this all works.
Did Modern Ventilators Replace the Iron Lung for Folks with Polio?
In addition to thinking that we just change the names of diseases when we want them to go away, some folks think that we don’t see anyone in iron lungs anymore, not because polio has been eliminated, but because modern ventilators simply replaced the iron lung.
Is that true?
The iron lung, invented in 1927, helped people with polio breath.
In fact, in the 1940s and 1950s, there were whole hospital wards full of polio patients in iron lungs.
Unlike most of today’s ventilators, the iron lung is a negative pressure ventilator. In contrast, most modern ventilators, the ones that you see people hooked up to with a tube going down to their lungs, are positive pressure ventilators.
What’s the difference?
A positive pressure ventilator pushes air into your lungs. They are useful when you have a lung disease or simply can’t breath on your own.
When people had polio, there usually wasn’t anything wrong with their lungs – it was their chest muscles and diaphragm that were the problem. So the negative pressure in the iron lung would compress and decompress their chest.
One benefit of the iron lung included that it was less invasive than ventilating someone through a tracheostomy, which became an option in the 1960s. While many new options became available for those needing long term ventilation since then, including noninvasive positive pressure ventilation, some still like to use their iron lungs.
And while it is true that they don’t make them anymore, iron lungs have not disappeared. There are some folks with polio that still use them.
But what if someone developed polio now, would they be put in an iron lung?
No, they wouldn’t. For one thing, they don’t make iron lungs anymore. Instead, they would likely use mouth intermittent positive pressure ventilation.
Still, we don’t see a lot of folks getting diagnosed with polio, needing to use mouth intermittent positive pressure ventilation, instead of iron lungs these days. And that’s because we don’t see a lot of folks getting diagnosed with polio.
Vaccines work. Polio is almost eradicated.
What to Know About Polio, Modern Ventilators and Iron Lungs
Although some people with polio are still using their iron lungs, the main reason we don’t see more people with polio needing to use iron lungs or modern ventilators is simply because polio is almost eradicated.
More on Ventilators and Iron Lungs
- The Last of the Iron Lungs
- The Iconic Iron Lung and Polio Survivors in the USA
- This lawyer is one of the last people alive who still uses an iron lung
- 60 years in an iron lung: US polio survivor worries about new global threat
- Living inside a canister: Dallas polio survivor is one of few people left in U.S. using iron lung
- KC woman one of few relying on iron lung to help her breathe after polio paralyzed her
- Rarely Seen: Our Curator Discusses the Iron Lung
- What Is an Iron Lung?
- Museum of Negative Pressure Ventilators
- The Iron Lung and Other Equipment
- The iron lung – a polio patient’s story
- Mouth intermittent positive pressure ventilation in the management of post-polio respiratory insufficiency
- What America Looked Like: Polio Children Paralyzed in Iron Lungs
- Book – Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (Fifth Edition)
- Obituary: Robin Cavendish
- Polio hits Hollywood big screen in Breathe
- Breathe – Official Site
- This Week in Polio
- Wiping Out Polio: How The U.S. Snuffed Out A Killer
- My Polio Story is an Inconvenient Truth to Those Who Refuse Vaccines
- Parents PACK Personal Stories – Polio
- My Life As A Polio Survivor
- Polio Survivors Network
- Polio Survivors in the 21st Century
- Why I am sharing my story as a polio survivor
- Polio Survivors Association
- Pennsylvania Polio Survivor Network
- Polio Survivors & Associates
- Post-Polio Health International
- After Effects of Polio Can Harm Survivors 40 Years Later