Karel Frederik Wenckebach (1864 – 1940) was a Dutch physician.
Wenckebach provided the first descriptions of the beneficial effects of the quinine alkaloids on arrhythmias and an important monograph on beriberi in 1934.
Known to his colleagues as ‘Venky’ he graduated in 1888 and worked at a zoological institute, but switched to physiology due to his colour blindness precluding a career in zoology
Eponymously affiliated with Wenckebach block (Mobitz type I AV block)
- Born 24 March 1864, Den Haag
- 1881-1888 – Studied medicine at the University of Utrecht
- 1888-1891 – Worked with Theodur Wilhelm Engelmann, and became familiar with techniques of kymographic recording and rhythm disturbances in frog experiments
- 1891 – Left Utrecht and entered country practice
- 1896 – Returned to Utrecht – allowing him to continue clinical and laboratory studies
- 1898 – Reviewed the patient whose pattern of pulse irregularity would allow him to discover that which became known as ‘Wenckebach periodicity’
- 1901 – Chair of Medicine at the University of Groningen
- 1904 – Published his book ‘Arrythmia of the Heart’
- 1911-1914 – Chair of Medicine at the University of Strasbourg
- 1914-1929 – Chair of Medicine at the University of Vienna
- Died 11 November 1940
Key Medical Attributions
- Published several papers on embryology whilst still a student
- First reported ventricular extrasystoles with compensatory pauses in humans and demonstrated that atrial extrasystoles were not accompanied by a compensatory pause
- Discovered his eponymous block prior to the benefit of clinical electrocardiography and the discovery of the sinoatrial and atrioventricular nodes
- Successfully used quinine to treat paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
- Second-degree Atrioventricular block – Mobitz Classification; Mobitz type I (Wenckebach) and Mobitz type II (Hay)
- Wenckebach phenomenon – the eponymous block, demonstrated after the advent of Einthoven’s string galvanometer electrocardiograph
- Wenckebach sign – paradoxical movements of the chest in chronic mediastinopericarditis
- Wenckebach bundle – a band of muscle passing from the SVC to the right atrium
- Wenckebach heart – small heart positioned in the midline of the thorax (mesocardia)
- Wenckebach Pills – quinine tablets which he showed could halt paroxysm of atrial fibrillation
The pauses between atrial and ventricular contraction which have been called ‘Wenckebach periodicity’ or ‘Mobitz I’ were initially called ‘Luciani Periods’ by Wenckebach himself, referencing the work of Luigi Luciani on frogs in the 1870s
I owe my reputation to the fact that I use digitalis in doses the text books say are dangerous and in cases that the text book say are unsuitable.
I am not a great man; I am a happy man.
- Wenckebach KF. De Analyse van den onregelmatigen Pols. II. Over eenige Vormen van Allorhythmie en Bradycardie. Nederl Tijdschrift Geneeskunde 1899;35:665
- Wenckebach KF. Zur Analyse des unregelmassigne Pulses [On the analysis of irregular pulses] Zeitschrift Für Klinische Medizin. II 1899;37:475–488 III 1900;39:293-305
- Wenckebach KF. Überden Pulsus Alternans. Zeitschrift für klinische Medizin. 1902;44:218-224
- Wenckebach KF. Die Arhythmie als Ausdruck bestimmter Funktionsstörungen des Herzens. [Arhythmia of the Heart: A Physiological and Clinical Study] . 1904.
- Wenckebach KF. Beiträge zur Kenntnis der menschlichen Herztätigkeit [Contributions to the knowledge of human cardiac activity]. Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie. I 1906:297–354. II 1907:1-24
- Wenckebach KF. Über Reizleitung und Reizleitungsstörung im Herzen. Deutsches Archiv für klinische Medizin. 1918;125:222-227.
- Wenckebach KF. Cinchone derivatives in the treatment of heart disorder. JAMA. 1923;81(6):472-474
- Wenckebach KF. Angina Pectoris and the Possibilities of its Surgical Relief. Brit med J 1924;1:809
- Wenckebach KF. Toter Punkt “SecondWind” und Angina Pectoris. Wiener klinische Wochenschrift. 1928;41:1.
- Wenckebach KF. St. Cyres Lecture: Heart and Circulation in a Tropical Avitaminosis (Beri-beri). Lancet 1928;2(5476):265-268
- Wenckebach KF. An Oration on THE USE OF FOXGLOVE AT THE BEDSIDE. Br Med J. 1930 Feb 1;1(3604):181-4.
- Wenckebach KF. Herz und Kreislaufinsuffizienz [Cardiovascular insufficiency] 1931.
- Wenckebach KF. Das Beriberi-Herz: Morphologie, Klinik, Pathogenese. 1934
- Mendoza-Davila N, Varon J. Resuscitation great. Karel Wenckebach: the story behind the block. Resuscitation. 2008 Nov;79(2):189-92. [PMID 18692289]
- Upshaw CB Jr, Silverman ME. The Wenckebach phenomenon: a salute and comment on the centennial of its original description. Ann Intern Med. 1999 Jan 5;130(1):58-63.
- Silverman ME, Upshaw CB Jr, Lange HW. Woldemar Mobitz and His 1924 Classification of Second-Degree Atrioventricular Block. Circulation. 2004 Aug 31;110(9):1162-7.
- Fye WB. Karel Frederik Wenckebach, 1864-1940. Clin Cardiol. 1990 Feb;13(2):146-8.
- Ritchie WT. Karel Frederik Wenckebach. Br Heart J. 1941 Apr; 3(2): 141–144
- Tandon A, Simpson L, Assar MD. Unusual origin of type 1 atrioventricular block with comments on Wenckebach’s contribution. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2011 Jan; 24(1): 9–12. [PMC3012282]
- Cooper J, Marriott HJ. To Wenckebach: a centenary salute. Tex Heart Inst J. 1999; 26(1): 8–11.
- Cadogan M. History of the Electrocardiogram. LITFL
- Cadogan M. History of Second-degree Atrioventricular block. LITFL
the person behind the name