One of the most dramatic events in medical self-experimentation took place in a small German hospital during the summer of 1929 when a 25 year old surgical resident named Werner Forssman inserted a plastic urethral catheter into the basilic vein in his right arm and then advanced the catheter into the right atrium of his heart.
This was the first documented instance of central venous cannulation using a flexible plastic catheter.
Although a success, the procedure had only one adverse consequence; i.e., Dr. Forssman was immediately dismissed from his residency because he had acted without the consent of his superiors, and his actions were perceived as reckless and even suicidal. Upon dismissal, he was told that â€œsuch methods are good for a circus but not for a respected hospitalâ€. Forssman went on to become a country doctor, but his achievement in vascular cannulation was finally recognized in 1956 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize
in Medicine for performing the first right-heart catheterization in a human subject.
Werner Forssmanâ€™s self-catheterization was a departure from the standard use of needles and rigid metal cannulas for vascular access, and it marked the beginning of the modern era of vascular cannulation, which is characterized by the use of flexible plastic catheters