Professor Frank Pantridge

Professor Frank Pantridge

Cross Posted: Ambulances; Equipment; Biographies; In memoriam; By Era; Patient Care Equipment
Submitter/Author: Mark Peck EMT-P and Cygnus/EMSWorld
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Pantridge/IPCO Defibrillator

Professor Frank Pantridge 

October 3,1916 – December 26,2004


Dr. Pantridge holding the Pantridge Model 280


    Professor Pantridge and Dr. Geddes of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast produced the first portable defibrillator in 1965. A mains (AC) powered defibrillator was powered by an inverter, which converted a 12V car battery to 230 volts.The unit weighed 70 kg. By 1968 he had designed an instrument weighing only 3 kg, incorporating a miniature capacitor manufactured for NASA. Its descendants are now used countless times daily across the world to save many lives. He went on to install the portable defibrillator in an ambulance, this creating the pre-hospital coronary care unit known as the Pantridge Plan. 

First Pantridge Defibrillator



    Dr. Pantridge is often referred to as the 'Father of Emergency Medicine' or "Grandfather of Prehospital ALS", and his plan was rapidly adopted in the USA and elsewhere. Hospital-based defibrillators were already being used in North America, but Pantridge doubted their impact, since data had shown that the majority of sudden cardiac arrests happened outside the hospital. It was known that most coronary deaths resulted from ventricular fibrillation. He believed that immediate correction of v-fib could and should be done at the scene of the event. However, a major problem was that defibrillators of the time could only be operated using main power supply. Using his research, he developed the first portable defibrillator-a svelte model that was powered by car batteries and weighed 70 kg.

    With this new tool, the Belfast treatment system became adopted throughout the world. Pantridge believed defibrillators needed to be as prevalent as fire extinguishers, and that if nonphysician responders could do CPR, then they could use defibrillators. To make the devices safer, Pantridge and his colleagues worked to improve the design, and after harnessing a miniature capacitor manufactured for NASA, he was able to create a defibrillator weighing only 3 kg. Pantridge's portable defibrillator would become a key tool in EMS, and after further refinement it has become the automated external defibrillator (AED), the cornerstone of response to cardiac arrests. Pantridge served on EMS Magazine's editorial advisory board for several years.

    A 1967 editorial in the medical journal 'The Lancet' stated Pantridge and his colleague at the RVH, John Geddes had revolutionised emergency medicine. However, it was not until 1990, almost 25 years after he installed the first defibrillator in a Belfast ambulance that Secretary of State for Health Kenneth Clarke announced £38 million was to be made available to equip all frontline ambulances in England with the equipment.


    Professor Pantridge was born in Hillsborough, County Down, Ireland , on October 3, 1916. His forebears were small landowners. He attended the  Friends School. He graduated in medicine from Queens University in 1939. He became a Medical Officer with an infantry battalion after joining the army at the outbreak of the Second World War and received an immediate award of the Military Cross for his work during the Battle of Singapore. He was captured when the city fell to the Japanese and spent much of his captivity on the Siam-Burma railway, including some months in the notorious "death camp", Tanbaya,- an experience which was to haunt him for the rest of his life. His interest in cardiology may have been initiated during this time when he survived the usually fatal cardiac beri-beri.

    He returned to Belfast in 1945 but could obtain only an appointment as a adjunct lecturer in the Queens University Department of Pathology. He then obtained a scholarship to the University of Michigan where he worked with F. N. Wilson, the world authority on electrocardiology of the time. He returned to Belfast in 1950 and was appointed Physician at the Royal Victoria Hospital where he remained until his retired in 1982, quickly establishing an internationally renowned cardiology unit.

     He was awarded the CBE in 1978.


 Pantridge Model 15 1971


PANTRIDGE 15-manufactured for Belfast by the Coleraine Instrument Company
featured rechargeable ni-cad batteries which could deliver upwards of 70 shocks. weight 15 lbs.,




PANTRIDGE 280 – Professor Anderson (left) showing one of the early lightweight systems developed in Belfast, and subsequently manufactured for them by Cardiac Recorders of London.
The unit was designed to specifications developed and prototyped at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
This unit weighed only 7.5 lbs, and became the first truly lightweight portable defibrillator for emergency services. 600 units were sold in the USA alone.





First Cardiac Ambulance- Belfast Ireland

    Karrier Ambulance Fleet No. 331. This type of ambulance was a familiar sight on the streets of Belfast during the 1960's and 70's as it was the standard accident and emergency ambulance in the city. However, number 331 was particularly special as it was the world's first purpose built cardiac ambulance which put into practice the Professor's pioneering concept of bringing emergency coronary care to patients.
    Also on display was the original portable defibrillator invented by the Professor which meant sudden cardiac arrest could be treated immediately the ambulance arrived at the scene of a heart attack.

    Mr. Bell and Mr. Warwick borrowed the Pantridge Portable Defibrillator from The Royal Victoria Hospital especially to exhibit in the ambulance.
    The original Karrier ambulance was purchased by a generous donation from the Belfast Co-operative Society's Women's Guild. When withdrawn from service it became a works ambulance at Ballylumford Power Station and was finished in the blue colour scheme of Northern Ireland Electricity.
After restoration in it's original Northern Ireland Hospital Authority's livery it took part in several ambulance rallies in Great Britain and won an award for it's condition and for being the farthest travelled ambulance. It is owned by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service but is kept and maintained by the Retired Ambulance Association and these men, many of whom drove the ambulance in its early days have been dedicated in maintaining it in its original condition.

 Dr. Pantridge visits Mobile Coronary Care unit at Staten Island Hospital in 1969.



The Ipco/Pantridge defibrillator

     The Ipco/Pantridge defibrillator below was available for sale in the U.S. during the late 70's. The defibrillator was unique in its time for its dramatically reduced size and weight, but required a separate monitor.


  Defibrillator donated to the Museum by Ernst Schindele of Fairfield Medical Products July 2011


     See: Founding Fathers of EMS

Keywords: defibrillator, Pantridge, IPCO, Belfast

External Resource Link:$6014##

Last Revision Date: 8/11/11 - 2:16 PM

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Report AbusePosted by Retired R.N. on Tuesday, April 01, 2014 03:28 PM Pacific
In 1960, as a young Canadian nurse, working a few months @ the Musgrave & Clarke Clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital, I had the privilege of 'making rounds' with Mr.(Dr.) Pantridge when he came to the floor to check on his patients. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his & Dr. Geddes accomplishments as they made a lasting life saving contribution affecting many families all over the world including Canada & the US.

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