Most medical discoveries have a notable story to tell. So it is with the discovery of Blood Pressure Measurement. This as I feel is one of the most important discoveries in medical science. With the rise in incidence of hypertension, cerebrovascular accidents, and heart failure, it is only apt that I brought out this interesting history about the past.
Riva Rocci invented the mercury manometer – this led to the dissemination of indirect sphygmomanometry for systolic pressure. Riva Rocci was the pupil of Potain, the great Parisian diagnostician who is attributed with introduction of the sphygmomanometer. Once Korotkoff had discovered the sounds known by his name, for diastolic as well, the history of the discovery of Indirect Blood Pressure Measurement was complete.
Korotkoff was a surgeon in the Czar’s army and not an internist as was believed earlier. Pirogoff, his teacher, had taught him always to auscultate over any area before performing an incision. On one occasion, while auscultating over an artery just as he was releasing a tourniquet, he heard thumping sounds. Abandoning his original scientific problem which was to study posttraumatic arteriovenous fistulas in the surgical dog laboratory, he tried to quantitate the amount of pressure required to make these auscultated sounds appear and disappear. The sounds correlated well with systole and diastole, as could be ascertained by direct inspection of the flow of blood from the distally severed artery of the dog.
Like most revolutionary discoveries, this landmark discovery was no alien to alienation. When Korotkoff first reported his findings in humans, some considered he had gone bonkers! So were many other scientists and innovators.