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History of G-suit and MAST

Emergency Care second edition, 1978

by Harvey D. Grant and Robert H. Murray, Jr.

Robert J. Brady Co. A Prentice-Hall Company Bowie, MD

Phase 5 - Principles of Emergency Care; Chapter 1 - Basic Life Support Measures p.235


The concept of autotransfusion initiated by an inflatable garment is not new. In 1903 Dr. George Crile placed in an inflatable rubber suit patients who had to be operated on in a sitting or semi-sitting position. He found that the suit prevented postural hypotension, or low blood pressure resulting from the patient's being in a sitting position. Just a few years later Dr. Crile reported successful use of his inflatable suit on a patient who was in apparently irreversible hemorrhagic shock. This was a significant event in the days before transfusions of blood and infusions of blood volume replacement fluids. But Dr. Crile's inflatable rubber suit developed leaks, so it was abandoned.

The idea was not abandoned, however. During the Second World War aviators wore up-to-date versions of Dr. Crile's suit to prevent blackouts during high speed aerial maneuvers and recoveries from steep dives. Called G-suits (after antigravity), these garments prevented the pooling of blood in the lower extremities; thus they prevented unconsciousness.

Lt. Col. Burton Kaplan, a surgeon with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, considered the use of G-suits as a means to prevent shock in severe trauma victims. He found that the G-suits were too expensive and too cumbersome for effective field use, however. He did not give up on a garment that would prevent the pooling of blood in the lower extremities of an injured person, though, and in 1972 he invented what would soon be known as Military Anti-Shock Trousers.

In 1973 Dr. Kaplan offered the prototype of the inflatable anti-shock garments that are in use today to the Miami Fire Department's rescue squad for testing under the direction of Dr. Eugene Nagel. The results were dramatic, and Dr. Nagel credited the garment with saving the lives of over half the patients to whom it was applied.

Today's anti-shock trousers are available to any emergency medical service unit and can be used by EMTs without difficulty after a short training period.

Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Content may not be copied, marketed, sold or otherwise disseminated without the express written consent of Pearson Education, Inc.

[For more information on the history of the g-suit, please see The Origin of the Anti-G Suit - A Link Between Clinical Surgery and Aviation Medicine. An invention by George Crile for surgical use in 1903 was similar to the anti-g suit developed in the 1930's and 1940's for military flight. History and timeline by Dr. Wilfrid H. Brook.]

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