Emil Naclerio MD 1957 300

Emilio (Emil) Anthony Naclerio (1915-1985) was an Italian-American Thoracic Surgeon.

Famously part of a trio that operated on Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958.

Eponymously remebered for Naclerio’s V sign in spontaneous oesophageal rupture. A V shaped collection of air in the left lower mediastinum.

  • Born on 21 March, 1915 – Brooklyn, Kings, New York
  • Educated in Marquette Medical School, Wisconsin
  • 1950 – Harlem Hospital
  • 1958 – Operated on Martin Luther King Jr. along with Dr John Cordice and Dr Leo Maitland following attempted assassination by Izola Curry
  • Died on October 14, 1985

Medical Eponyms
Naclerio ‘V sign’ (1957)

Radiographic evidence of a V-shaped collection of air in the left lower mediastinum, along the diaphragm and seen in pneumomediastinum.

First described by Naclerio in two case reports as “the Iinear roentgen density corresponded to the fascial pIanes of the mediastinal and diaphragmatic pleurae in the region of the Iower esophagus” in relation to spontaneous oesophageal rupture.

Naclerio 1957 The V sign in the diagnosis of spontaneous rupture of the esophagus
Chest Radiograph from the original paper in 1957 demonstrating the ‘V sign’. Naclerio, 1957

A second V sign was later described as gas outlining the superior margins of the brachiocephalic veins at their confluence.

Major Publications


In 1958, the operation to save Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. life was planned by the trio of surgeons of Naclerio, Cordice and Maitland. They however delayed the surgery to await Dr Aubré Maynard. Maynard was Chief of the Surgery at the time, but had less knowledge of thoracic surgery than Naclerio.

During the surgery it is stated that Maynard attempted to pull out the blade prematurely. Maynard was given the opportunity to remove the blade by trio as a sign of respect. After the blade had been removed Maynard left the operating room to discuss the success leaving the trio to close King’s chest.

Later it is stated Maynard made a number of fabrications about the details of the operation.

Naclerio went on to have a long friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often exchanging letters.



Eponymous terms


Graduated Medicine in 2020 from Queens University Belfast. Interested in Internal Medicine.

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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