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The Iron Lung and Polio

OPENPediatrics is pleased to announce the publication of our video, “The Iron Lung and Polio,” by Dr. Mark Rockoff. In this video, Dr. Rockoff talks about the history, development and use of the iron lung in response to polio. The iron lung, a machine designed to help patients who have lost part or all of their ability to control the muscles involved in breathing, was first used clinically in 1928 to treat an 8 year-old girl with polio at Boston Children’s Hospital. During the 1950’s, when a polio epidemic spread through Boston, much of the hospital was devoted to treating the victims.

Boston Children’s Hospital rebuilt a fully functioning iron lung from parts of multiple non-functioning ones found at the Lakeville State Hospital in Massachusetts. This working machine, used in the OPENPediatrics video, is currently on display in the Enders Building at Boston Children’s Hospital, a fitting place for this Iron Lung to be displayed. The building was named after John Enders, one of the researchers who developed a method to grow the polio virus in the laboratory, paving the way for future researchers to develop a vaccine.