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Crit Care Resusc. 2007 Jun;9(2):221-37.

History of mouth-to-mouth ventilation. Part 3: the 19th to mid-20th centuries and "rediscovery".

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  • 1Department of Critical Care Medicine, Auckland Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.


The start of the 19th century saw the enthusiasm of the previous one for mouth-to-mouth ventilation (MMV) dissipated. To inflate the lungs of the asphyxiated, the Royal Humane Society in the United Kingdom had recommended bellows since 1782. Principal determinants for change were aesthetic distaste for mouth-to-mouth contact and the perceived danger of using expired air, although MMV survived in the practice of some midwives. Following the 1826-9 investigations of Jean-Jacques Leroy d'Etiolles then Fran├žois Magendie, all positive pressure ventilation methods were generally abandoned, after 1829 in France, and 1832 in the UK; but not chest compressions. During the next quarter century, rescuers lost understanding of the primary need for "artificial respiration", apart from researchers such as John Snow and John Erichsen, until Marshall Hall's "Ready Method" heralded the second half-century's various methods of negative pressure ventilation. Some of those methods continued in use until the 1940s. Sporadic anecdotal cases of MMV rescues were documented throughout. In the 20th century, inadequate mechanical inhalators were also tried from 1908, while obstetricians devised indirect methods of expired air ventilation (EAV). Anaesthetists in the 1940s, such as Ralph Waters, Robert Dripps, and the pair, Robert Macintosh and William Mushin, described the usefulness of MMV, and James Elam was "re-discovering" it. Following World War II, "Cold War" concerns stimulated research at the Edgewood Medical Laboratories in Maryland in the United States into the possibilities of MMV, and Elam et al confirmed and expanded on brief experiments at Oxford (United Kingdom) on the efficacy of mouth-to-tube EAV. Studies, 1957-9, by Archer Gordon, Elam and especially Peter Safar resulted in the resolution of previous airway problems, established the primacy of MMV, and incorporated it into an integrated system for basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Ready adoption of MMV in the US was followed by worldwide spread, especially after endorsement from the 1962 international symposium at Stavanger in Norway. However, already there were occasional rumblings of reluctance to perform MMV. In this article, I consider MMV also in the context of other ventilatory modes for resuscitation.

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