Today, Vice President Dick Cheney is one of the hundreds of thousands
of people worldwide whose life has been saved because of the collaborative
power of a few inventive minds.
implantable defibrillator, an electronic device to monitor and
correct abnormal heart rhythms, has come a long way since its
first successful implant in 1980. Today, more than 300,000 patients
have received an implantable defibrillator, which is proven to
be 99 percent effective in treating sudden cardiac arrest.
idea for the device was prompted by the death of his friend, colleague
and mentor, Dr. Harry Heller. Heller was the head of medicine
at the hospital in Israel where Mirowski completed his internship
and residency. Heller helped him obtain two fellowships, one of
which was at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. While in Baltimore, Mirowski
learned that his friend suffered an attack of ventricular fibrillation.
He knew Heller was still alive but knew an attack would happen
again. Refusing to stay in the hospital, and not able to be followed
around by a defibrillator, Heller died several weeks later during
dinner with his family.
loss motivated Mirowski to develop an AICD and find a way to help
those people who needed continuous heart monitoring and treatment.
In 1968, now head of Sinai Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit, Mirowski
met Mower, a Research Associate in the Cardiopulmary Laboratory, and they began to work on turning
the idea into a reality. In 1973, Mirowski partnered with Heilman,
founder of Medrad, a company devoted to developing clinically
useful medical devices, to help make Mirowski’s vision a reality.
Heilman also identified Langer because of his work on electrocardiograph
signal analysis, completing the team of four pioneers.
a natural pacemaker within the heart regularly stimulates the
heart to contract, producing a heartbeat. Ventricular fibrillation
occurs when different impulses from the heart’s ventricles signal
the heart to beat abnormally, causing very little blood to be
pumped through the heart to the brain and body, which can result
in sudden cardiac death.
correct this condition, this team of doctors designed and tested
the first automatic, implantable defibrillator and the first alternative
to drugs and surgery. The device, which corrects the irregular
rhythm, was originally the size of deck of cards and weighing
nine ounces. Although these devices have gotten smaller and smaller
since first patented, the technology from the original patent
has not been replaced by new or improved technology.
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