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July 8, 1968


JAMA. 1968;205(2):105-106. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03140280059018

The familiar industrial slogan for better living has now become a medical aphorism—a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the role of electronics in the treatment of heart disease.

Although as early as 1819 Aldini attempted electrical stimulation of the heart in decapitated criminals and recommended galvanism for syncope, no serious attempt at implementing the suggestion was made until 1947; at that time Beck and his coworkers1 successfully terminated a paroxysm of ventricular fibrillation by internal electrical defibrillation. Nine years later Zoll and associates2 achieved the same results with countershock by an external defibrillator; and, in 1962, Lown3 used synchronized capacitor discharge to terminate ectopic arrhythmias. Successful pacing of patients in whom heart block occurred during operation, reported by Allen and Lillehei4 in 1957, led to subsequent development and refinement of pacemaker techniques.

Electrical procedures proved to be lifesaving in many cardiac emergencies. And with the introduction of implanted