A rubber tube to the heart  

The history of the world´s first heart catheterization 

Katharina Schroll-Bakes
Published on February 10, 2022
<p><strong>“I no longer remember the date on which it all took place. All I know is that it was a beautiful, sunny day in early summer.” In his biography, this is how the physician Werner Forssmann describes the day on which he transformed the world of cardiac diagnostics forever with a daring self-experiment. </strong></p>
Krankhaus Auguste-Viktoria-Heim in Eberswalde

The Auguste-Victoria Hospital in Eberswalde
Source: Forssmann family archive 

Werner Forssmann mit seiner Frau Elisabeth

Werner Forssmann assessing an X-ray with his wife, Elisabeth, at his practice in Bad Kreuznach in the early 1950s
Source: Forssmann family archive

<p>From that point onward, everything had to be done in secret. Over the next few weeks, Forssmann planned the experiment down to the very last detail. With a bit of cunning, he obtained some sterile instruments, took advantage of the relative quiet of the lunch hour, and locked himself away in the hospital’s small operating room. In no time at all, he had opened the vein in his left arm in order to introduce a well-oiled ureteral catheter into his body. Once the tube was inserted into his arm, he ran to the X-ray room and used the fluoroscopic screen to check the position of the catheter, pushing it further and further until it reached the right chamber of the heart. “I asked for X-rays to be taken in order to serve as documentary evidence.”</p>
rubber catheter in Werner Forssmann’s right atrium
Werner Forssmann bei der Verleihung des Medizinnobelpreis, 1956

Werner Forssmann at the presentation of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1956
Source: Forssmann family archive 

Katharina Schroll-Bakes
Katharina Schroll-Bakes
By Katharina Schroll-Bakes

Expert for History Communication and Historian at the Siemens Healthineers Historical Institute