Arthur Ernest Sansom

Arthur Ernest Sansom (1838 - 1907) 300

Arthur Ernest Sansom (1838 – 1907) was an English physician and anaesthetist.

Pioneering research on anaesthesiology, the use of carbolic acid in medicine, and the diagnosis of heart disease.

Sansom was eponymised with a binaural stethoscope; a pleximeter; and a variety of signs including Sansom’s percussion sign of pericardial effusion (1892) and Sansom’s sign of thoracic aortic aneursym (1895)

  • Born on May 13, 1838 in Corsham, England
  • 1854 – King’s College, London (aged 16)
  • 1859 – M.R.C.S. Eng. and L.S.A.
  • 1878 – Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians
  • 1897 – President of the Medical Society of London
  • Died on March 10, 1907 in Bournemouth, England

Medical Eponyms
Sansom sign I (1895)

A rhythmic murmur heard with the stethoscope applied to the lips. A sign of aneurysm of the thoracic aorta. [Pre-dating Drummond sign (1908)]

I have found valuable auscultatory evidence in some cases of aneurysm, when a murmur has been absent, or very feebly heard, over the thorax, by causing the patient to place within his mouth the small chest-piece of the binaural stethoscope, and to close his lips over it. On auscultating thus, the observer may hear a distinct or loud systolic murmur in the case of a thoracic aneurysm, the vibrations being communicated to the trachea, and thence directly by the air-column to the ears.

Sansom 1895: 500

Sansom sign II (1892)

Marked increase of the area of dulness in the second and third intercostal spaces. A sign of pericardial effusion. Sansom compared the findings of cardiac enlargement due to pericardial effusion versus hypertrophy

Abrupt Outline of Praecordial Dulness of Pyramidal or Pyriform Shape: When this is observed, there is a great probability of effusion in the pericardial sac. In this case the relative cardiac dulness does not exist; the transition from the resonance of the lung to a very marked dulness is abrupt; moreover, the dulness may extend above the usual limit. Whenever marked dulness extends above the third rib, there is a strong probability of pericardial effusion. If there be much distension of the pericardium with fluid, the area of dulness may extend from the articulation of the first or second costal cartilage above to the sixth rib or sixth intercostal space below.

Sansom 1892

DB Lees, William Osler, WH Broadbent, William Ewart, Adolf Baginsky, James Finlayson, Theodore Fisher, Frederick John Poynton, John Lindsay Steven, D. W. Samways and GF Still. A Discussion On Rheumatic Heart Disease In Children. In: 66th Annual meeting of the British Medical Association. Br Med J 1898; 2: 1129-1134.

Dr. Sansom lays stress on a considerable extension of dulness in the third and second intercostal spaces. This sign is of value, for the fibro-serous inflammatory product of early rheumatic pericarditis is most abundant at the base of the heart, around the great vessels.

DB Lees 1898

Pericardial Effusion: Its Diagnosis and Treatment. An Address Introductory to a Discussion on the Subject. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 1910; Vol 3(2): Samuel West (55-69); D. B. Lees (69-73); William Ewart (73-76)

When I examined this patient the friction had subsided, and the only evidence of his attack of pericarditis consisted in the extension upwards and outwards of the upper limit of the cardiac dullness in the second left intercostal space-a most valuable sign of an early or limited effusion into the pericardial sac around the great vessels; a sign for which we are indebted to the late Dr. Sansom.

D. B. Lees (69-73)

Sansom’s binaural (double) stethoscope (1891)
Sansom's binaural stethoscope

Sansom’s stethoscope embodies all the good points of the older types of binaural stethoscope, none of which, it may be added, is so satisfactory for routine work as the instrument devised by Mr. Bowles…the metal work and the rubber tubing are too light, the ear-pieces ill fitting, the chest-pieces defective, and the springs difficult to adjust properly.

Da Costa 1915

Sansom’s pleximeter (1891)
sansom pleximeter

Percussion: The hammer or agent by which the stroke is practiced is the plexor, and the interposed material is the pleximeter. By far the most common plexor, and for the most part the best, is the middle or index finger, or both of these, while one or the other of the same fingers of the other hand becomes the pleximeter. By far the most satisfactory pleximeter, in my experience, is the little hard-rubber pleximeter suggested by Sansom (fig 5). Either the larger or smaller end may be applied to the chest, and the stroke given to the other side, with equal efficiency.

Tyson 1891

Key Medical Attributions

1865 he wrote one of the first and most practical works on anaesthetics entitled, Chloroform : its action and administration

In 1869-70 he brought before the medical profession in this country the importance of Pasteur’s researches on fermentation, and embodying those views, together with the results of many experiments of his own, brought them before the Medical Society of London in a series of papers, subsequently publishing them in a book entitled The antiseptic system (1871).

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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