Advanced life support is the set of protocols directed at maintaining homeostasis once a patient has been stabilised by the Basic Life Support protocols. The 20th Century saw the development of advanced life support technology which sustains life in circumstances which would previously have been impossible. Explore some of these radical medical innovations…


If it’s not treated within minutes, cardiac arrest usually causes death. This extreme medical emergency needs treatment with a defibrillator which delivers an electric shock to restore a normal rhythm to a heart that’s stopped beating. Without access to a defibrillator, a victim’s chances are slim – according to Heart Screen New York, survival declines by 7-10% for each minute without defibrillation, and beyond 12 minutes following collapse, survival rate is just 2-5%. Given these staggering statistics, the inventor of the external defibrillator, Professor Frank Pantridge, believed defibrillators should be as commonplace as fire extinguishers – today’s small portable automatic external defibrillators are designed to be used by people with little or no training, and are helping save lives around the world.

Cardiac Monitors

The world’s first cardiac monitor was the Holter Monitor Test, developed by Norman Holter and Bruce Del Mar in the late 1940s – a heavy device that recorded electrical signals from the heart via electrodes attached to the chest, thereby producing data that clinicians could interpret. Over the years, the size of the monitor was gradually reduced and the technology refined and by the early 1960s it was being embraced in hospitals throughout the world. The ground-breaking work of these two men paved the way for today’s sophisticated cardiac monitoring devices, without which it would prove difficult for doctors to accurately measure heart rate, assess cardiac rhythm and detect cardiac arrhythmias, and record cardiac events – all key cues to the health of a patient which could have catastrophic results if missed.

Anaesthetic monitors

Anaesthesia makes surgery not only more comfortable for patients, but most surgical interventions possible at all! Although administering anaesthesia is routine, there are risks and this necessitates careful monitoring by an anaesthetist during surgery. Without anaesthetic monitors, doctors wouldn’t be able to accurately and quickly measure and monitor the vital signs – heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature – during surgery. This data is vital to ensure the health of the patient, and helps doctors respond accordingly and timeously to any changes in a patient’s condition.

Ventilator Systems

Starved of oxygen, a person can die within minutes. Mechanical ventilators support or replace the function of the lungs temporarily or for more prolonged periods, allowing patients to recover or to sustain life indefinitely in patients who have lost the ability to breathe themselves. This innovation is invaluable in modern medicine.

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