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Werner Forssmann
  1. M K Davies,
  2. A Hollman

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Werner Forssmann (1904-1979) was the pioneer of cardiac catheterisation in man. In 1929, at the age of 25, while doing his surgical training at Eberswalde, a small town near Berlin, he introduced a ureteral catheter into his own right atrium. Using a mirror he advanced the catheter under fluoroscopic control and then climbed the stairs to the x ray department where a chest film was taken. Forssmann had two objects in mind. Firstly to use this technique in emergencies to administer drugs directly into the heart, and secondly “to study the heart and for diagnosis”. Later he catheterised his own heart on six more occasions. He also injected contrast material, Uroselectan, in 1931 in an attempt to produce an angiocardiogram. By 1932 pulmonary angiography using a catheter in the right atrium had been done in Lisbon, Paris, and Buenos Aires.


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Cardiac catheterisation made it possible to measure the cardiac output using the Fick principle and this important advance was first made in Prague in 1930. The development of Forssman's technique owed much to the work in New York of André Cournand and Dickinson Richards and together with Forssmann they were the joint recipients of the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1956. Werner Forssmann ended his career as chief surgeon to the Evangelical Hospital in Dusseldorf.

St Vincent and the Grenadines issued a set of 48 $1.00 stamps in 1995 to commemorate the centenary of the Nobel Prize Trust Fund. These were issued in sheetlets of 12 with each stamp in the four sheetlets depicting a different recipient of a Nobel Prize. Eight of the stamps celebrated Nobel Prize winners for medicine including Konrad Lorenz, Ivan Pavlov, and Werner Forssmann.

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