Hugh Pemberton

Hugh Spear Pemberton (1890-1956)

Hugh Spear Pemberton (1890-1956) was an English physician.

Specific interest in diabetes. Published papers in the British Medical Journal on diabetes, thyrotoxicosis, peripheral vascular disease, and hospital planning

Pemberton’s description of the eponymous Pemberton Sign appeared in a brief letter to The Lancet in 1946

  • Born June 1890
  • 1913 – MB ChB, Liverpool University
  • 1914-1918 RAMC in WWI
  • 1921 – MRCP
  • 1922 – Founded the diabetic clinic at the Northern Hospital
  • 1946 – FRCP
  • Died on January 15, 1956

Medical Eponyms
Pemberton sign (1946)

The development of facial plethora, cyanosis and distension of neck veins with raising both arms simultaneously (Pemberton maneuver).

Positive test indicates thoracic inlet obstruction, originally described in patients with retrosternal goitre but may also be seen in lung carcinoma, lymphomas, thymomas, dermoid cysts or aortic aneurysms.

SIR,-There is a useful sign given by a submerged or intrathoracic goitre which I have employed and taught for many years. It consists in getting the patient to elevate both arms until they touch the sides of the head; after a moment or so, congestion of the face, some cyanosis, and lastly distress become apparent – presumably from narrowing of the thoracic inlet and obstruction of the venous return. I have not seen it in superior mediastinal block. Doubtless the sign has been described before and even bears a name, but I am unaware of it.

Lancet, 1946
Pemberton Sign ACP
Wallace C, Siminoski K. Pemberton Sign. 1996

Major Publications



  • Obituary. HS Pemberton. Br Med J 1956;1:237-8
  • Zhou H., McHenry C. Hugh Spear Pemberton. In: Pasieka J., Lee J. (eds) Surgical Endocrinopathies. Springer 2015 [Google]
  • Biography: Hugh Spear Pemberton. Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians of London. Munk’s Roll: Volume V:327.

Eponymous sign


the person behind the name

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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