Great Australian Inventions: Pacemaker

Great Australian Inventions: Pacemaker
March 18, 2020 Prime Engineering

The impact of Australian inventions has stretched globally, revolutionising the way we work and even live. One of the most impactful Aussie medical inventions is the pacemaker, used around the world to save and prolong the lives of their recipients. While the inventor of the pacemaker may not have been Australian born, his idea was built through his studies and life that he led here. At Prime Engineering, stories such as that of Mark Lidwell inspire us to create solutions to your largest engineering issues.

doctor, inventor, heart surgery

Lidwell was born in England in 1878 and migrated to Melbourne, Australia with his parents in 1894. Lidwell studied at the University of Melbourne, achieving honours in 1902 and completing his doctorate in 1904. After graduating, Lidwell’s career in anaesthetic medicine flourished into the pioneering of a variety of medical technologies, most notably, the pacemaker.

Some of the monumental moments at the beginning of Lidewell’s medical career included the design and manufacture in 1910 of a mechanical-anaesthesia apparatus, named the Lidwill Inter-Tracheal Anaesthetic Machine which was used in Australian hospitals for over 30 years. The purpose of the device was to allow surgeons to have continuous access to the patient for operations on the face and pharynx when in the past, they had to use an episodic ‘mask, operation, mask, operation’ sequence.

pacemaker, invention, innovation, heart

In 1926, while Lidwell was working at the Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney, his expertise brought him to successfully revive a stillborn baby using electrical stimulation. Lidwell had used an unprecedented approach involving the placement of a needle directly into the heart of the patient and administering 16-volt impulses through the apparatus that he had invented.

Lidwell, who was both a physician and anaesthetist, was fascinated by cardiac causes of death. Through his experience, he knew that cardiac muscle could be made to contract using either intracardiac adrenaline or electrical stimulation. With this knowledge, Lidwell began designing an ‘electrical device with the objective of resuscitating patients in whom the conducting system had failed’. Lidwell conducted research and created multiple models of the machine at the University of Sydney, one of which was portable. In 1926, Lidwell carried out the first successful pacing of the heart in a neonate. This portable machine was the first, user-friendly pacemaker.

At Prime Engineering, inventions that revolutionised the world inspire us to do better and improve your business as well. Our engineering solutions are strategically crafted and informed by almost 30 years of experience. If you are looking to take your mechanical engineering resources to the next level, our team can help you with custom designs and services to suit your needs. Contact us today!