The “iron lung” is a negative pressure ventilator. The traditional version is a chamber around the patient’s body while leaving the head of the patient in the open air. A modern variant is a jacket-like device worn by the patient.
By lowering the air pressure inside the chamber to less than the air pressure outside the chamber, air flows into the patient’s lungs. The lungs are emptied again by rising the air pressure inside the chamber back to the surrounding air pressure. This is the standard treatment for people who have breathing difficulties caused by neuromuscular disorders.
Downsides for using an iron lung with pneumonia
- There is not much information available about the safety and effectiveness of the iron lung when treating pneumonia and ARDS.
- Most variants of the iron lung restrict access to the patient’s body.
- Few medical professionals know how to use them.