100 years of innovation in ventilation technology and 100 years in the US

100 years ago in October 1907, company founder, Johann Heinrich Dräger, was awarded a patent for the Pulmotor, the first mobile short-term respirator. This marked the birth of ventilation technology development at Dräger. Simple, reliable, and extremely effective, the apparatus – transported in a wooden casket – quickly became a standard piece of equipment used by rescue services throughout Germany.

It all began early in the 20th century, when, on a trip to England, Johann Heinrich Dräger witnessed a young man being pulled out the Thames and resuscitated using the traditional Schaeffer method. Still in London, Dräger then produced some initial sketches. Upon returning to Lübeck, he began developing a technical solution for a resuscitation machine. After a few more modifications, the result was “Dräger’s Pulmotor, the first automatic oxygen resuscitation machine for artificial respiration”, manufactured in the factory and construction institute for oxygen apparatus known at the time as Drägerwerk in Lübeck, Germany. In his memoirs, Johann Heinrich Dräger spoke of the Pulmotor as having enabled well over 1,000 officially attested resuscitations by March 1, 1917.

Successful attempts at resuscitating miners poisoned by carbon monoxide, for example, paid testament to the success of the oxygen machine just a short time after its market launch in 1908 – in defiance of the skeptics of positive pressure respiration. Dräger consequently started serial production which, even at that time, proved extremely successful in the United States. The first Dräger company on US soil was founded in the US in 1907, too: at 11 Broadway in New York City; shortly afterwards, the company was moved to Pittsburgh, PA, and renamed Draeger Oxygen Apparatus Company. Internationality and innovativeness have a long tradition at Dräger.

In the US, the Pulmotor respirator was bought mainly to equip rescue teams of mining companies (mine rescuers) and fire departments, hence Dräger's legendary reputation for breathing apparatus in the US: mine rescuers equipped with Dräger apparatus were known as Draegermen

The Oxylog product family, which is still going strong today, superseded the successful Pulmotor in 1978. After the first applications of the Iron Lung in the fifties, long-term positive pressure ventilation was introduced. Today, this is fulfilled by the intensive care ventilators of the Evita family. All of these devices are based on the technical specifications of the Pulmotor. In fact, advancements in this technical innovation from the beginning of the 20th century are now not only used for emergency and long-term ventilation, but also in anesthesia and for home care.

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