like a cat around a cream jug

In 1929 Werner Forssmann*** was a surgical intern working at Auguste Victoria Home near Berlin.

image found here

“He was interested in the feats of Chaveau and Marey, who were the first to achieve measurement and recording of blood pressure from the interior of the heart of a living animal.

Marey inserted a tube into the horse’s circulatory system at the jugular vein, guiding it downward until the top, equipped with a balloon, was actually positioned inside the right ventricle. The balloon responded to the pumping action of the ventricle and sent the impulse through the catheter to a toy drum that Marey was holding near the opposite end of the tube.

Marey’s apparatus found here

With this process in mind he approached his superior for approval to try an experiment on a human using the antecubital rather than the jugular vein. When permission was refused he  decided to go ahead with the procedure by experimenting on himself.

image found here

This would involve enlisting the help of a surgical nurse and to this end he started to prowl round Nurse Gerda Ditzen like a sweet toothed cat around the cream jug. He persuaded her to be his accomplice and such was her faith in him that she wanted to be the experimentee. Agreeing that the nurse would go first, Dr Forssmann strapped her to the table as though that were a prerequisite for the procedure.

image by Karin Szekessy

He then moved behind her head, anesthetized his own arm, punctured his vein and in the space of a moment pushed the catheter down more than a good foot inside. Facing the wrath of Gerda, he untied her and she helped him to the x-ray room where he pushed it in almost to the two foot mark and took x-rays as documentary evidence.

Many years would pass before the now standard procedure of cardiac catheterisation would be fully exploited but recognition of Dr Forssmann’s pioneering work came in 1956 when he shared a Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology.

image of Forssmann receiving Nobel Prize found here

*** Extract from an article by Diana Berry found here

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32 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. ‘He then moved behind her head, anesthetized his own arm, punctured his vein and in the space of a moment pushed the catheter down more than a good foot inside. Facing the wrath of Gerda, he untied her and she helped him to the x-ray room where he pushed it in almost to the two foot mark’

    Ah that old trick… wait what?

    • Just skim the surface and look at the pictures Alex, that way you’ll sleep better at night.

  2. That’s another one that had me squinting.

  3. Stephen King has a house in our community. He needs to read this.

    There’s also a museum a few minutes from my house that has an exhibit on old timey medical instruments. It gives me the creeps. This post reminds me of that. Yet, as awful as it is, I guess that’s how we got to where we are today, yes?

    • I’d like to go to that museum!

  4. Oh, that Werner! Such a tricky little stinker…

  5. Nurse Gerda Ditzen
    Sitting in a tree
    Catheterisation
    LSD

    Henry Gibson

  6. “Facing the wrath of Gerda, he untied her and she helped him to the x-ray room where he pushed it in almost to the two foot mark and took x-rays as documentary evidence.”

    This whole post has left me hot and bothered….

  7. Facing the wrath…hell then I would have left her tied up.

  8. Okay, I’m trying to see how reading this post would leave someone hot and bothered. . .I mean we are talking about putting tubes into our blood vessels here. As I was reading about the horse I was wondering why the poor animal didn’t just die on the spot. Apparently our hearts are more durable than we believe.

    Makes me look at my little blood pressure monitor with completely different eyes.

  9. *CRASH* ….. sorry, I faint at the sight of blood …..

    • ah daddyp, you’re such a soft gingernut aren’t you?

  10. I admire the guy. If you’re going to try some experimental shit, than doing it on yourself first is only fair. I mean, who’s taking the risk here? It’s great that she offered, but if she had died, he would have looked like a fruit loop with a butcher knife. No, testing it on himself was the only noble way to do it. You’ve got to go with your convictions, and he was willing to risk his life to prove the technique was viable. I’ve got to respect that.

  11. Well that is an unusual way of impressing a lady. Perhaps dinner, wine and floweers were just a bit too staid for him!

    Seriously another fascinating slice of medical history

  12. Strapping a woman to a table is a prerequisite to all my procedures.

    • Haha….. can I join the line?

  13. Looking at the picture of him sticking the thingy in his arm made me feel ikky. I can’t even watch medical procedures on TV. Don’t know how I ever managed to get tattoos. Nearly passed out watching my 1st one being done. Even for a blood test I have to LOOK AWAY,LOOK AWAY!!!!

    • How many tattoos have you managed to get?

  14. One cannot overstate the importance of bondage in moder science.

  15. The words catheter and blood make me dizzy.

    • How do you feel about catacomb and plasma?

  16. Amazing what brave people (and sometimes unbalanced people) have been able to do to advance our knowledge of how we and the world work.

  17. eeewwww !! *shudder*

  18. He was just shooting up

    • With a really really long hose

  19. Brave man!

  20. him prowling around Nurse Gerda like a sweet toothed cat makes me thing of a courtship gone wrong!

  21. him prowling around Nurse Gerda like a sweet toothed cat makes me think of a courtship gone wrong!

  22. I don’t think I’d mind the wrath of Gerda so much. I might even enjoy her wrath!

    • depends on what form it takes….. righteous wrath is not so good but ribald wrath could be ok

  23. Wow. Woooooooow. I have no idea what to say, but it was all very educational. Damn good facts. Woooooow.


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