Wright Peak Flowmeter

WLMD ID: apoq
Anesthesiologists are responsible for maintaining the patient's respiration during surgery, and may also monitor the patient's breathing afterwards. Tests of lung function provide important information about a patient's general state of health, and his respiratory needs both during and after surgery. Peak expiratory flow is an individual's maximum rate of exhalation, usually measured in liters per minute.

English physician and inventor Basil Martin Wright, M. D. (1912-2001) described himself as a "gadgeteer". In the 1940s and '50s he worked for Britain's National Research Council, studying lung disease in miners. He developed his peak expiratory flow meter because the available apparatus to test vital capacity was bulky, and tiring for the patient. Weighting less than two pounds, his new, portable meter made this testing possible outside the laboratory. Its convenience and accuracy led to its widespread adoption. The peak flow meter was made by Airmed, Ltd. of Harlow, England, and distributed in the United States by the Monaghan Company, Inc., of Denver, Colorado. The example shown here was probably made in the early 1960s. Dr. Wright introduced a miniature version in the 1970s and in time it came to replace the original device.

Catalog Record: Wright Peak Flowmeter Wright Peak Flowmeter

Access Key: apoq

Accession No.: 1998-02-25-1

Title: Wright peak flow meter / Airmed Ltd.

Author: Wright, B.M. (Basil Martin), 1912-2001.

Corporate Author: Airmed Ltd.

Title variation: Alt Title
Title: Wright Peak Flowmeter.

Publisher: Harlow, England : Airmed Ltd., 1959-

Subject: Vital Capacity – instrumentation.
Subject: Respiratory Function Tests.
Subject: Lung Volume Measurements – instrumentation.

Note Type: General
Notes: The first year in the date range is the year that the apparatus was introduced. The second year in the date range is based on the cataloger’s search of the medical literature, which found no published references to the Monaghan Co. after 1979.

The label inside the box lid gives the distributor’s address with a five-digit postal code (ZIP Code). The use of ZIP Codes was adopted by the U. S. Postal Service beginning in 1967, giving an earliest date for the box alone.

Described from the point of view of the person who observes the meter. The numbered dial is considered the front, with both the tube that would hold a disposable mouthpiece and the latch of the handle on the observer’s left. The handle is on the bottom.

Note Type: With
Notes: Cardboard box with metal hinges and clasp. The box measures approximately 6 x 30 x 21 centimeters. The interior is fitted with two compartments. One compartment is shaped to hold the apparatus. The second is a rectangle that holds five cardboard tubes; originally, there were six such tubes. The top of the lid is marked: [Monahan Co. logo] [new line] WRIGHT [new line] PEAK [new line] FLOW [new line] METER. The lid has also been labeled with a piece of masking tape, on which the serial number of the apparatus has been written: “8149”. The interior of the lid is printed with the directions for use, a list of selected references dated 1960 through 1963, and information about The Monaghan Co.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Leiner GC, Abramowitz S, Small MJ, Stenby VB, Lewis WA. Expiratory peak flow rate. Am Rev Respiratory Diseases. November, 1963;88(5):644-651.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Maltby JR, ed. Notable Names in Anaesthesia. London: Royal Society of Medicine Press, 2002:238-241.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Marrett HR, inventor; Airmed Ltd., assignee. Apparatus for the administration of inhalant gas mixtures. US patent 2,586,677, February 19, 1952.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Monaghan Company File. Archives. Located at the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Monaghan Medical Corporation website: https://monaghanmed.com/about-overview-of-mmc. Accessed May 4, 2017.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Wilm CC, inventor; J. J. Monaghan Company, Inc., assignee. Respirator. US patent 2,490,395, December 6, 1949.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Wright BM, McKerrow CB. Maximum forced expiratory flow rate as a measure of ventilatory capacity. Br Med J. November 21, 1959;2(5159):1041-1047.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Wright BM, McKerrow CB. Peak-flow meter. Br Med J. March 5, 1960;1(5174):728-729.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Wright BM. A miniature Wright peak flow meter. Br Med J. December 9, 1978;2:1627-1628.

Note Type: Citation
Notes: Wright. This week’s citation classic. Current Contents. March 16, 1981;11:314.

Note Type: Physical Description
Notes: One respiratory monitor; When the handle is closed, the height is approximately 15 centimeters; The body of the device is enameled a putty color; A connecting tube extends from the main body of the meter to the left of the dial; A metal mesh covers the opening 0of this tube where it meets the body; The purpose of this connector is to hold a disposable cardboard tube, called in the product literature a “mouthpiece”; Each mouthpiece is approximately 9.5 centimeters long and 3 centimeters in diameter;

With a cardboard mouthpiece inserted, the full width is approximately 23.5 centimeters;

The handle of the device is enameled black; The length of the handle is approximately 19 centimeters; It is curved to fit closely around the body of the device, below the dial; It is attached directly under the connecting tube; A metal release button on the handle, placed near the point of attachment, is labeled: “PRESS”; When this button is depressed, it allows the handle to be lowered so that it can be grasped by the patient; When fully lowered, the handle locks into position, and can be released by pushing the same button again; In this open position, the handle stands out from approximately 1 centimeter at the narrowest point to approximately 4.5 centimeters at the widest point;

The dial is fixed in place by a metal rim, attached to the body by three screws; It is covered by a piece of transparent plastic; The dial is white, printed in black; The indicator needle is white, except for the end that aligns with positions on the dial, which is black; The dial is approximately 14 centimeters in diameter, and 44.5 centimeters in circumference;

The dial is calibrated in liters per minute; The center of the dial is marked: “WRIGHT PEAK FLOW METER [new line] LITERS PER MINUTE [new line] PEAK EXPIRATORY FLOW RATE”; The perimeter of the dial is marked, from left to right: “60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260 280 300 320 340 360 380 400 420 440 460 480 500 520 540 560 580 600 620 640 660 680 700 720 740 760 780 800 820 840 860 880 900 920 940 960 980 1000”; The indicator is fixed immediately below the word “peak”;

On the back of the unit, two concentric rows of round openings surround a central plate; The openings in the exterior row are larger than those in the interior row; On the right, nearest to the tube that would hold a mouthpiece, there is a small metal switch, called in the product literature the “reset button”, that can be pushed toward the left but which automatically returns to its original position; The plate is made of metal (stainless steel?), and is attached by three screws; The plate is marked: “SOLE DISTRIBUTORS [new line] AIRMED LIMITED [new line] HARLOW, ENGLAND [new line] W8149”.

Note Type: Reproduction
Notes: Photographed by Mr. Steve Donisch, November 14 and 15, 2016.

Note Type: Acquisition
Notes: Gift of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Belleville, Illinois.

Note Type: Historical
Notes: Anesthesiologists are responsible for maintaining the patient’s respiration during surgery. They may also monitor and support the patient’s breathing during the recovery period. Tests of lung function provide important information about a patient’s general state of health, and his respiratory needs both during and after surgery. The amount of air a person can exhale, after taking the deepest breath he can, is called maximum expiratory flow, also called vital capacity or peak flow.

English physician and inventor Basil Martin Wright, M. D. (1912-2001) described himself as a “gadgeteer”. In the 1940s and ’50s he worked for Britain’s National Research Council, studying pulmonary disease, particularly pneumoconiosis, a lung disease afflicting miners. He introduced the Wright Respirometer in 1955. Four years later, he introduced a peak expiratory flow meter. In 1981, he reminisced that he developed the peak flow meter because the available apparatus to test breathing capacity was “cumbersome”, and “exhausting for the subject”. At just under two pounds’ weight, his new, portable meter made this testing possible outside the laboratory. Its convenience and accuracy led to its widespread adoption. It was found especially useful for pediatric and geriatric patients. In the 1970s, Wright introduced a miniature version. Better suited for pediatric and geriatric patients, in time this came to replace the original device. The current generation of “mini” Wright Peak Flow Meters are made of plastic. Maltby has noted that they “are found in British medical bags, consulting rooms and the homes of asthmatics.”

The cataloged object was made by Airmed, Limited, of Harlow, England. This company made anesthesia and respiratory therapy equipment. The cataloger found references to Airmed dating from 1946 to 1996. The cataloged object was sold in a purpose-made box, with instructions printed inside the lid, made by The Monaghan Company, Inc., of Denver, Colorado. Originally called J. J. Monaghan Co., Inc., this firm made ventilators and respiratory therapy apparatus. An undated flier states that Monaghan was the “exclusive distributor” of Wright peak flow meter in the United States. The cataloger found references to Monaghan Co. dating from 1947 through 1979.

It should be noted that Monaghan Co. was not affiliated with Monaghan Medical Corporation, of Plattsburgh, New York. This firm is one of several that sell the current generation of Wright Peak Flow Meters. The cataloger found references to Monaghan Medical dating from 1983 to the present (2017).

Note Type: Publication
Notes: Wright BM. Lancet. 1974;1:1151.

Note Type: Exhibition
Notes: Selected for the WLM website.