Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 May 2015

Frank Pantridge - the king of hearts

His portable heart defibrillator has saved countless lives across the globe. Now the makers of Ulster cardiologist Frank Pantridge's invention have just landed their biggest-ever order for the device

Treatment pioneer: Professor Frank Pantridge
Treatment pioneer: Professor Frank Pantridge

It's one of the most disturbing scenes you could ever witness.

A person lying prostrate, surrounded by others desperately trying to revive them after a sudden cardiac arrest.

Sadly, it's a scenario that's been brought into sharp focus in various sporting arenas – most recently with the collapse of Premier League football star Fabrice Muamba during a live televised match two years ago.

In Muamba's case – and these days, fortunately, that of many others – there was a happy ending to the frightening drama.

And that's largely thanks to a Northern Ireland man: Professor Frank Pantridge.

He's the cardiologist who invented the portable defibrillator; a device that has helped save millions of lives across the world over the last half decade alone.

Known worldwide as the "father of emergency medicine", Prof Pantridge's breakthrough creation has transformed emergency medicine and paramedic services since his first version was installed in a Belfast ambulance in 1965.

As a result of the Queen's University graduate's invention, the process emergency departments use to treat cardiac arrest is known as 'The Belfast Protocol'.

The portable defibrillator became recognised as a key tool in first aid, and the Hillsborough physician's refinement of the automated external defibrillator (AED) allowed it to be used safely by members of the public.

All front line ambulances in the UK were fitted with the devices by 1990 and the Belfast treatment system, often known as the 'Pantridge Plan', became adopted throughout the world by emergency medical services.

His creation has since been deployed around the world.

Conceived by Prof Pantridge, Prof John Anderson, from Belfast, led the biomedical engineering research into the development of the mobile defibrillator.

Prof Anderson, a University of Ulster graduate, later founded HeartSine Technologies in 1997 with the aim of making the technology more widely available.

HeartSine now designs, develops and manufactures automated external defibrillators (AEDs), which are now used to save lives in 44 countries. And Singapore has been added to the list after a new contract – the firm's biggest-ever export deal – was announced.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster revealed yesterday that the Belfast-based company has won a major contract to supply its AEDs to the Singapore Ministry of Defence.

Ms Foster, who is in Singapore to support Northern Ireland companies taking part in the Singapore Air Show, said the deal was excellent news.

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