Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Origins of Interventional Cardiology

I found this article interesting! 

From: http://www.novitatherapeutics.com/blog/werner-forssmann-urologist-nobel-prize-cardiology 

I've copied it here in case it gets deleted on the other site one day. 

Over the last several years I have become interested in learning where important ideas come from. This interest includes both relatively new ideas, such as ablating sympathetic nerves around the kidney in patients with high blood pressure using a catheter placed in the renal artery, and older ones such as the idea for catheterization itself.

Last week I learned about Werner Forssman, who performed the first catheterization of the heart. I would like to share an excerpt from Dr. Forssman’s biography at Angioplasty.org:

"In 1929 in a small hospital in Eberswald Germany Werner Forssmann, a young surgical resident, anesthetized his own elbow, inserted a catheter in his antecubital vein and, catheter dangling from his arm, proceeded to a basement x-ray room where he documented the catheter's position in his right atrium, proving that a catheter could be inserted safely into a human heart. Forssmann's goal was to find a safe way to inject drugs for cardiac resuscitation. He was determined that catheterization was the key, but it was believed at the time that any entry into the heart would be fatal. Forssmann was immediately fired for his self-experimentation, despite the significance of his discovery. The popular press acclaimed his work, but the medical establishment branded him as crazy, scorning him and ignoring his work for over a decade… Discouraged by his lack of acceptance in cardiology he switched to urology.... He never returned to cardiology research but was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1956 (along with cardiology innovators Cournand and Richards) for his pioneering efforts."

There are three things in this story that I see often in studying innovation. First, important, ground-breaking innovations often come from individuals who are just beginning to master a field of study. Dr. Forssman was twenty-five years old when he made his discovery. Second, these pioneering individuals are often at the periphery of their field, rather than at prestigious institutions. Dr. Forssman was training at the August Victoria Home at Eberswalde, which was small in size and reputation when compared with elite university hospitals such as Göttingen University Hospital or Heidelberg University Hospital. Finally, it is notable how frequently important, ground-breaking innovations are initially met with scorn and rejection. I wonder how it felt for Werner Forssman to step to the podium in Stockholm as a urologist and receive one of the most important Nobel Prize awards in the history of cardiology.

I would like to acknowledge and thank Michael O’Shaughnessy for reviewing this post and providing helpful comments and edits.

Author: Nick Franano, Founder and CEO of Novita Therapeutics

Another interesting article on the history of cardiology here:


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