Severinghaus Blood Gas Analyzer

WLMD ID: ameo
Severinghaus Three-Function Blood Gas Analyzer         

Over 100 years of research and invention lay behind the first devices to measure the amount of oxygen and other gases in blood. But from their introduction in the 1920s to the 1950s, most of these methods were clumsy and inaccurate. High altitude aviation in WWII, and the polio epidemics of the 1950s, spurred an increasing use of ventilation and a new focus on blood oxygenation.

In 1956, anesthesiologist John W. Severinghaus, M.D. (born 1922) combined newly invented electrodes that measured the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2) and the partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) in samples of blood in a single apparatus. He worked with Laboratory Technician Mr. A. Freeman Bradley at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. Together they developed the first device that could accurately measure PCO2 and PO2 in one sample. The two-function analyzer was introduced in 1957.

The next year, Dr. Severinghaus joined the anesthesia faculty of the University of California at San Francisco, where he continued to work with Mr. Bradley to improve the apparatus. They added an electrode to measure the level of alkalinity or acidity (pH) in blood, and the first three-function blood gas analyzer was introduced in 1959.

By the 1960s, devices that could continuously measure blood gases had become commercially available.  Later research led to today’s transcutaneous pulse oximeters, which measure oxygen saturation (SpO2) rather than PO2.

This prototype was donated to the WLM by Dr. Severinghaus in 2013.

Catalog Record: Severinghaus Blood Gas Analyzer

Access Key: ameo

Accession No.: 2013-02-11-2 A

Title: First Blood Gas 3 Electrode System.

Author: Severinghaus, John W. (Wendell), 1922-

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Severinghaus and Bradley Three-Function Blood Gas Analyzer.

Publisher: [San Francisco, California?] : [Name of manufacturer not identified], 1958.

Physical Descript: 1 blood gas analyzer : plastics, metals, glass, rubber, textile, paper ; 16 x 25.25 x 13.5 cm.

Subject: Blood Gas Analysis – history.
Subject: Blood Gas Analysis – instrumentation.
Subject: Severinghaus, John W. (Wendell), 1922-

Note Type: General
Notes: This differs from both the prototype two-function analyzer (1957) and the
prototype three-function analyzer (1959) illustrated in publications by Dr.
Severinghaus.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Hornbein TF. ASA award: John Severinghaus. Anesthesiology. October,
1986;65(4):360-361.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Severinghaus JW, Bradley AF. Electrodes for blood PO2 and PO2 determination.
J Applied Physiology. November, 1958;13(3):515-520.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Severinghaus JW, Astrup PB. History of blood gas analysis. III. carbon
dioxide tension. J Clin Monitoring. January, 1986;2(1)60-73.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Severinghaus JW. The invention and development of blood gas analysis
apparatus. Anesthesiology. July, 2002;97(1):253-256.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Severinghaus JW. Gadgeteering for health care: the John W. Severinghaus
Lecture on Translational Science. Anesthesiology. April, 2009;110(4):721-728.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Severinghaus JW. History of respiratory gas monitoring in anesthesia. In
Eger, EI, II,Saidman LJ, and Westhorpe RN., eds. The Wondrous Story of
Anesthesia. New York: Springer, 2014.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One clear plastic (Lucite?) box comprising two compartments; The compartments
share one wall made of the same plastic; A round metal plate holding various
components is mounted on the shared wall, and extends into the compartment on
the left; This plate is held in place by four screws in the shared wall
inside the compartment on the right;

On the top panel of the compartment on the left, a paper label has been
affixed which reads: “First Blood Gas 3 Electrode System [new line] pH:
MacInnes Belcher – Cambridge [new line] PCO2: Stow Severinghaus – National
Welding [new line] (Similar to System in Smithsonian) [new line]
Bradley-Severinghaus: 1958″; The compartment on the left contains a glass
electrode, a component encased in a yellow cardboard tube, wires and other
parts, including a plastic cuvette containing other components (the “stirring
paddle”); On the front panel of this left compartment three componens are
mounted in a vertical row (from top to bottom) a red plastic light, a toggle
switch labeled “Power” and a toggle switch labeled “Motor”; The left side
wall of this compartment is perforated with a round hole, surrounded by a
circle of eight smaller holes; The back panel of this compartment is
perferated with the same pattern of holes ;

The top of the compartment on the right consists of two parts; That part on
the left is stationary and is perforated by two round holes; In the larger of
these holes is inserted a complex glass tube set into black rubber stopper; A
narrow clear plastic tube is inserted at the bottom of the glass tube; To the
right of the stationary panel is a panel that can be removed; This panel is
pierced by various holes, and is held in place by a screw that extends into
the front panel; This top panel is 1 centimeter (cm) short of the full depth
of the box, leaving an open gap in the top; This piece appears to have
replaced another that would have closed the top more completely, as there is
a screw extending into the back panel of this compartment which corresponds
to the screw in front;

Inside, the compartment on the right holds metal and wire components; The
front panel of this compartment is perforated by a hole; Embedded in the
front panel of this compartment are a clear plastic peg labeled “pH”, two
metal jacks labeled “PCO2”, two metal jacks labeled “PO2”, and a fifth metal
jack that is connected by a coil of wire inside the compartment to a jack on
the rear panel of the compartment; The right-side wall of this compartment
has no features other than a paper adhesive label that reads: “University of
California [new line] 61-20-01756 [new line] Med Anesthesia”;

The back panel of the compartment on the right is perforated by a hole
corresponding to that on the front panel; Five items are embedded in this
rear panel; Two are red plastic pegs; The third is a jack that is connected
by a coil of wire inside the compartment to a jack in the front panel; The
fourth is the PCO2 electrode, marked “Model 9987 100 Severinghaus PCO2
Electode [new line] Medical Division National of California [new line] 218
Fremont St. San Francisco 5″; Extending from the exposed back of this
electrode is a black electrical lead, approximately 147.5 cm long, ending in
a black plastic jack; The fifth component is a metal tube that extends into
the compartment; Attached to the exposed back of this component is a black
electrical lead appoximately 251.5 cm long, ending in a metal and plastic
cylinder; This lead bears a paper label that reads: “Etched [new line] Tip
[new line] In service [new line] About 1 1/2 [new line] Years”; The base of
the box has four black rubber feet glued in place.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch, January 12, 2015.

Note Type: Acquisition
Notes: Gift of the inventor, John W. Severinghaus, M.D.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Over 100 years of research and invention lay behind the first devices to
measure the amount of oxygen and other gases in blood. Beginning in the 1920s
and continuing today, many such instruments have been developed for a
variety of uses. However, until the 1950s, most of these methods were clumsy
and inaccurate.

John W. Severinghaus was born in 1922, and received his B. S. in physics from
Haverford College in Haverford, PA in 1943. The atomic bombing of Japan in
1945 caused him to redirect his career, and he received his M. D. from
Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1949. After a two
year internship in Cooperstown, NY, he was first, an anesthesia resident, and
then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania from 1951 to
1953. From 1953 to 1958 he worked either full time or part time as Chief of
Anesthesia Research at the U. S. Public Health Service Clinical Center in
Bethesda, MD. During the years 1956 and 1957, he also completed a second
anesthesia residency at the University of Iowa. From 1958 onward, he worked
at the University of California, San Francisco (USCF), where in 1991 he
became a Professor Emeritus of Anesthesia.

In 1954, Richard Stow, M.D. (1916-) reported his invention of an electrode to
measure the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (PCO2) in blood. He presented
this at a meeting of the American Physiological Society, which was attended
by Dr. Severinghaus. Shortly after this meeting, and with Stow’s approval,
Severinghaus continued the development of Stow’s electrode, and greatly
improved its efficiency.

Also in 1954, biochemist Leland Clark, Ph.D. (1918-2005) invented an
electrode to measure the partial pressure of oxygen (PO2) in blood. This was
patented, and was commercially produced by Yellow Springs Instrument Co. of
Antioch, OH. Two years later, Severinghaus invited Clark and other
respiratory physiologists to discuss the measurement of PO2 at the 1956
meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
(FASEB). There, Clark presented his electrode, and Severinghaus soon
purchased one.

Over the course of the next year, Severinghaus worked at Bethesda with
Laboratory Technician Mr. A. Freeman Bradley to develop a new apparatus for
the measurement of both PO2 and PCO2 in human blood. They also received
assistance from the physiology workshop the University of Iowa. The result
was the first “two function analyzer”, incorporating both the
“Stow-Severinghaus” CO2 electrode, and the Clark O2 electrode. It was
completed in 1957, and was commercially produced by Yellow Springs
Instruments. The apparatus was exhibited at that year’s Annual Meeting of the
American Society of Anesthesiologists, and the following year at the meeting
of FASEB.

The next year, Severinghaus joined the anesthesia faculty of the UCSF. There
he continued to work with Bradley to improve the apparatus, adding a
component to measure the degree of alkalinity or acidity in blood (a pH
electrode). This was the first “three function” blood gas analyzer,
completed in 1959.

Both the two-function and the three-function apparatus worked by testing a
blood sample. Today, samples are still taken for analysis when necessary. But
this technology has largely been replaced by transcutaneous (noninvasive)
devices. High altitude aviation in WWII, and the polio epidemics of the 1950s
led to a growing use of ventilation in anesthesia practice. This brought an
increasing demand for equipment that could continuously monitor blood
oxygenation. By the 1960s, these devices were becoming commercially available
Later research led to today’s transcutaneous pulse oximeters, which measure
oxygen saturation (SpO2) rather than PO2.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: In 1986, Dr. Severinghaus received the Award for Excellence in Research from
the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). In 2008, the ASA renamed its
annual Plenary Lecture on Translational Science in his honor. Dr.
Severinghaus himself delivered the first John W. Severinghaus Lecture in
Translational Science on October 21, 2008.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Selected for the WLM website (noted October 15, 2015).