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March 1943


Author Affiliations

Fellow in Medicine, the Mayo Foundation; ROCHESTER, MINN.

From the Division of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.

Arch Intern Med (Chic). 1943;71(3):325-344. doi:10.1001/archinte.1943.00210030026003

Theophilus Bonetus in his Sepulchretum in 1679 is reported by White1 to have recorded cases of dyspnea, rapid breathing and blood spitting which presumably were due to pulmonary embolism and pulmonary infarction. However, it remained for Virchow,2 the creator of the doctrine of embolism and thrombosis, in 1856, to record an early case in which embolism of the pulmonary arteries was described as the cause of sudden death. It is of interest to note in this report by Virchow that mention is made of the mechanism of death in pulmonary embolism. He attributed death primarily to failure of the heart as a result of a decrease of flow through the coronary arteries and stated that at necropsy the heart usually was found in the state of diastole.

More recently the mechanism of death in pulmonary embolism has been studied in experimental animals in an endeavor to determine the