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Empress Sissi and cardiac tamponade: an historical perspective

Keller, Pierre-Frédéric
Spodick, David H.
Published in American Journal of Cardiology. 2008, vol. 102, no. 9, p. 1278-80
Abstract On September 10, 1898, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, known as Sissi, was stabbed with a stiletto knife in her chest by an Italian anarchist in Geneva, Switzerland, and died 1 hour later. The autopsy revealed a large clot in the pericardial sac due to a perforation of the left ventricular wall, and the report concluded, "Death was undoubtedly caused by a progressive and slow blood leak, sufficient to compress the heart and to suspend its functions." Since antiquity, wounds of the heart had been considered immediately fatal, until Paré observed a delayed death after a stab to the heart in the 16th century. The physiology of cardiac tamponade was then elucidated by Richard Lower in 1669. However, it was only in the 19th century that the main clinical features of cardiac tamponade were described and the first treatments attempted. Kussmaul identified its most important clinical hallmark, pulsus paradoxus, in 1873 and the term "tamponade of the heart" was coined for the first time by Rose in 1884. Romero and Larrey pioneered the open drainage of the pericardium early in the century, and Rehn performed the first successful surgical suture of a heart wound in 1896. In conclusion, logistics aside, medical knowledge at the end of the 19th century would have been theoretically sufficient to save the empress from death.
Keywords Cardiac Tamponade/etiology/history/therapyFemaleHeart Injuries/complications/historyHistory, 16th CenturyHistory, 17th CenturyHistory, 18th CenturyHistory, 19th CenturyHistory, AncientHumansMalePericardial Effusion/complications/historyWounds, Stab/complications/history
PMID: 18949866
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MEYER, Philippe, KELLER, Pierre-Frédéric, SPODICK, David H. Empress Sissi and cardiac tamponade: an historical perspective. In: American Journal of Cardiology, 2008, vol. 102, n° 9, p. 1278-80. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:3400

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Deposited on : 2009-09-28

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