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.
He continued to experiment with catheterization in dogs and it is alleged
that he stopped self-experimentation only when he had used all of his veins
with 17 cut downs. Discouraged by his lack of acceptance in cardiology
he switched to urology and eventually became a country doctor. 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.
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