History

Resuscitation practices of old : The Paracelsus method of inflation

Museum of the Order of St John Judi McGinley, Museum Assistant

Aureolus, PhilippusTheophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, (1493-1541), otherwise known as Paracelsus, was a Swiss physician who made his mark during the 16th century when he successfully applied ventilation methods using a pair of blacksmith’s bellows.

Image depicting Paracelsus
An image depicting Paracelsus 1493 – 1541.   Artist: Balthasar Jenichen, 1572. Image credit: Wellcome Images. Library reference: Iconographic Collection 656979i  Obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

 The bellows were connected to a tube which was inserted into the patient’s mouth. This procedure became known as the Paracelsus method of inflation or the Bellows method of resuscitation, and was the earliest form of mechanical ventilation.  During the 1500s, strangely enough it was pretty much common place to use a set of fireplace bellows to expel air and smoke into the victim’s mouth in order to resuscitate them. The image below shows a Royal Humane Society Resuscitation apparatus, comprising bellows fitted with brass box, enclosed in wood, to contain heated tobacco, with long flexible pipe attached; for artificial respiration. 

An image depicting a pair of bellows with tube attached.
Image credit: Wellcome Images,  http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0009723.html. Obtained via Wikimedia Commons

In next week’s post you will learn about the Barrel method of resuscitation and the use of tobacco smoke enemas!

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