Why couldn’t polio patients dependent on mechanical ventilation be transferred from iron lungs to less invasive positive pressure ventilators once they were invented?

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I hope this is an okay post. It doesn’t directly concern any recent events per se, though a recent event did lead me to think of this question

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Anonymous 0 Comments

They can be, and a lot were. However, iron lungs use negative pressure ventilation (where they increase their volume, which decreases the pressure inside and kinda sucks the chest up so you can take a normal breath), whereas most modern treatments use positive pressure ventilation (where air is pushed into your mouth by a pump, normally).

Negative pressure ventilation is more close to our natural breathing, so some people preferred it. In a way, positive pressure ventilation is more invasive!

Although iron lungs are unwieldy, many patients using them because of polio would be paralysed from the neck down anyway (like the recently deceased Paul Alexander), so it may not have impact their mobility. There are also some other medical conditions that might not allow for positive pressure ventilation.

Patients using iron lungs don’t have to spend all of their time in them – June Middleton, who was in one for six decades, would use it for 21 hours a day to assist her breathing. Paul Alexander was taught how to breathe using his neck muscles, meaning he could also leave for short periods.

Also, you have to consider the psychological attachments that people may form to these devices which breathe for them, and which they rely on to survive. It might be too scary for patients to try something else, particularly if the iron lung has worked so far.

Recent cases of people still in iron lungs are popular in the news because of their novelty, giving a popularity bias that makes them seem perhaps more common than they are

Anonymous 0 Comments

the ventilators today are positive pressure ventilators which means it pushes air down the lungs. the negative pressure in the iron lungs helps decompress the chest and chest muscles. i don’t know if i’d agree that positive pressure ventilators are less invasive. It requires anesthetic and a tube down the trachea.

Modern ventilators make it hard to speak, eat, and do whatever else you need to do with your mouth. The benefit of an iron lung is that you are fully awake, able to communicate, and are able to eat and drink.

iron lungs are actually not invasive and do not have any or have only a little actual contact with the body. the negative pressure mimics breathing. Iron lungs are specifically useful in cases where there has been nerve damage and respiratory failure.

Another issue with modern ventilators is the potential for misplacement. It has to be perfectly aligned right with your airways to work properly. There are also a lot of challenges affording and keeping long-term ventilators sterile.

Anonymous 0 Comments

If you are referencing the guy in the iron lung that just passed, in an earlier article, it was indicated that he tried a modern ventilator and he didn’t like it. Staying in the iron lung was a choice that Paul Alexander made.