Paul Dudley White on Echocardiography. “Nobody Is Perfect”

I enjoyed reading Dr. Blackburn’s brief report about Paul Dudley White in the October 15, 2010, issue of The American Journal of Cardiology . Another possible subtitle could be “Nobody Is Perfect.” I have a third-hand story about Dr. White, which I have reason to believe is true.

In the early 1950s, Drs. Inge Edler (a cardiologist) and Helmuth Hertz (a physicist) used an ultrasound device borrowed from Siemens (Dr. Hertz’s father’s employer) to examine the heart. After only a few years, Dr. Hertz lost interest and left the field. He advised Siemens that there was no future in cardiac ultrasound (Sven Effert, personal communication).

Siemens apparently wanted a second opinion. They asked Drs. Paul Dudley White and Andre Cournand to visit Dr. Edler and review his work. They too agreed that there was no future in cardiac ultrasound. Siemens then lost whatever interest it had in the field, and Edler soon thereafter also left the field.

By the time I saw my first ultrasound instrument in 1963 (because of an erroneous advertisement ), there was no activity in cardiac ultrasound in Europe. The only person I could find using cardiac ultrasound was Claude Joyner in Philadelphia, who was recruited by Jack Reid, who had worked with ultrasound previously and was pursuing his PhD in physics at the University of Pennsylvania. They were trying to duplicate 1 of Edler’s findings, which ultimately proved to be clinically unreliable. The field essentially remained dead until we published our report on the use of cardiac ultrasound to detect pericardial effusion in 1965. Thus, Dr. White helped temporarily bury cardiac ultrasound, at least for a few years.

“Cardiac ultrasound” is now known as “echocardiography.” We could not use “echocardiography” in the early days, because at the time, the only clinical use of diagnostic ultrasound was “echoencephalography.” As a result we had no usable abbreviation for “echocardiography.” We could not use “ECG” because it was already taken for electrocardiography. We could not use “echo,” because it did not differentiate from echoencephalography. “Echocardiography” became feasible only when echoencephalography died. No other diagnostic ultrasound technique used “echo,” leaving it available as the abbreviation for echocardiography. Thus, the birth of “echocardiography” as the name for cardiac ultrasound.

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Dec 22, 2016 | Posted by in CARDIOLOGY | Comments Off on Paul Dudley White on Echocardiography. “Nobody Is Perfect”

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