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Swan-Ganz catheter

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A thin (5-Fr) flexible, flow-directed catheter with a terminal inflatable balloon. It is inserted through the right atrium and ventricle into the pulmonary artery. The balloon is then inflated sufficiently to block the flow of blood from the right heart to the lung. This allows the back pressure in the pulmonary artery distal to the balloon to be recorded. This pressure reflects the pressure transmitted back from the left atrial chamber of the heart.

The first to demonstrate that a catheter could be advanced safely into the human heart was the German surgeon Werner Forssmann (1904-1979) – who did the experiment on himself. A catheter similar to the Swan-Ganz was originally developed in 1953 and used in dogs by the U.S. physiologists Michael Lategola and Hermann Rahn (1912-1990). Swan and Ganz introduced their catheter into clinical practice in 1970.


  • W. Forssmann:
    Die Sondierung des Rechten Herzens.
    Klinische Wochenschrift, Berlin, 1929, 8: 2085. Experiments on myself. Translated by H. Davies. London, St. James Press, 1974.

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