Self-Starter for Dead Man’s Heart (Oct, 1933)
PHYSICIAN INVENTS Self-Starter for Dead Man’s Heart
WHAT can be done when the heart ceases to beat? Under all sorts of different conditions, a doctor often is confronted with this urgent question.
The ambulance physician faces it with the victim of heart stroke, drowning, or accident. The surgeon faces it when the pulse of an etherized patient suddenly stops. The family physician faces it when a baby is still born or when a mother’s heart stops during childbirth.
Until recently the only answer was the injection of a powerful stimulant into the heart itself, with the result that, not infrequently, the heart failed to respond.
A new answer has just been furnished by the invention of Dr. Albert S. Hyman, heart specialist of the Beth David Hospital of New York, and by C. Henry Hyman, electrical research engineer.
This life-saving device can be compared with the self-starter of a car. When the car’s engine stalls, the starter motor turns it over until the cylinders are again firing. In the same way, when the heart stops under any of the conditions named above, the needle of the “Hyman Otor,” as it is called, gives the four-cylinder heart engine a rhythmical electrical stimulation. This starts the heart beat and maintains it until the heart’s own “electric generator” resumes operation.
This comparison is not far-fetched, for the equivalent of an electrical generator exists in the wall of the right upper chamber (or auricle) of the heart, and a system of “wires” conveys the electrical impulses to the heart muscle. This “ignition system” is called the “pace-maker” of the heart.
The essential feature of the Hyman invention is a hollow steel needle, through which a carefully insulated wire runs to the open point. Both the needle itself and its central wire are connected to the terminals of a light, spring-driven generator, provided with a current-interrupting device. This mechanism can be adjusted to give electrical impulses with the frequency of the heart-beat from infancy to old age.
When the physician faces a case of heart stoppage, he inserts the needle between the first and second ribs into the right auricle of the heart, and starts the generator at the required frequency. The rhythmical current then “cranks” the heart engine by stimulating the “pacemaker” to act in step with the generator, until its normal action is resumed. Usually this occurs quickly.
Medical authorities predict a wide usefulness for the “Hyman Otor.”