Museum of Medicine
School of Medicine, University of Crete

Exhibits / Artificial Pneumothorax Apparatus

The apparatus was used for the controlled entry of air into the pleural cavity in order to cause a collapse of the lung.

The Italian doctor Carlo Forlanini, a specialist in the treatment of tuberculosis (TB), discovered the apparatus in 1884, a discovery which earned him a nomination for the Nobel Prize.

This discovery was based on the 19th century observation that artificial pneumothorax improved the course of pulmonary tuberculosis.

With the inlet of air or nitrogen into the pleura, Forlanini caused a complete or partial collapse of the lung, placing the lung in a state of "rest". Most importantly, however, the entry of air contracted the residuals TB cavities that caused the massive and deadly hemoptysis.

In 1906 Christian Saugman significantly improved the device by adding a water manometer which measured accurately the intrathoracic pressures avoiding, in this way, unwanted side effects. Several improvements had been made since, and the medical industry at the time introduced several models of artificial pneumothorax apparatus.

Between the years 1910 and 1920 the artificial pneumothorax was the most widespread treatment of tuberculosis in the Western world. With the discovery of the anti-tuberculosis medications of streptomycin in 1944 and isoniazid in 1957, this method was slowly abandoned and today it is not used any more.

A physician should have special skills and thorough experience in the application of the therapeutical pneumothorax in order to avoid side effects that would endanger the patient’s life. The correct position of the air inlet needle, the presence of adhesions in the pleura, the number and the location of the TB cavities determined the success or failure of this method.

In Greece, the artificial pneumothorax was applied by Tuberculologists (Tuberculosis physicians) with a significant success rate.

The image shows the Tuberculologist Menelaos Siafakas using a therapeutic pneumothorax apparatus to his patient, under primitive conditions.

The documentation material is courtesy of Nikos Siafakas, Emeritus Professor of Pulmonology

2810 39 4810
10:00 - 14:00 daily

School of Medicine
University of Crete
2208 ΤΚ 71003
Voutes, Heraklion Crete, GR