Defibrillation Mechanisms: The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant

“Defibrillation Mechanisms: The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant,” by Ideker, Chattipakorn, and Gray.

I’ve read many scientific papers, but only one began with an eight-stanza poem about an elephant. Twenty years ago, Ray Ideker, Nipon Chattipakorn, and Rick Gray published “ Defibrillation Mechanisms: The Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant” in the Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology (Volume 11, Pages 1008–1013, 2000). The opening poem by John Godfrey Saxe is reproduced below.

The purpose of the article was to review the different hypotheses that explain defibrillation of the heart. Russ Hobbie and I discuss defibrillation in Chapter 7 of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.

Ideker et al. discuss several possible mechanisms that explain how an electrical shock terminates fibrillation. This is a difficult problem, and I’ve spent much of my career trying to figure it out (I guess I’m one of the blind men).

Defibrillation is a fine example of how a knowledge of physics can help solve a critical problem in medicine. Apparently a knowledge of poetry helps too.

Originally published at http://hobbieroth.blogspot.com.

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Professor of Physics at Oakland University and coauthor of the textbook Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.

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Brad Roth

Professor of Physics at Oakland University and coauthor of the textbook Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.