French-born US physician who was awarded a Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1956, together with German surgeon Werner Forssmann and US physician Dickinson Richards, for their work on the technique for passing a catheter into the heart for diagnostic purposes. This method paved the way for the development of the discipline of modern cardiology, as it meant that studies of the human heart could be performed without the need for surgery. Cournand later expanded his work to include research on the lungs.
In 1929 Forssmann placed a hollow tube into a vein in his arm and advanced the tube until its tip entered the right atrium of his heart. This procedure, called cardiac catheterization, was developed further by Richards and Cournand so that the tube could be inserted into the right side of the heart and the pulmonary artery in order to study congenital heart disease.
They also succeeded in the catheterization of the left side of the heart by passing the tube through the septum, which separates the two sides of the heart. The procedure made it possible to measure the pressures in the various chambers of the heart, information that proved enormously valuable for the development of surgery for congenital heart disease and narrowed arteries.
Cournand was born in Paris, France, and educated at the Sorbonne. He emigrated to the USA in 1930 and was on the staff of Columbia University/Bellevue Hospital (1930–64) and joined the staff of Columbia University in 1934. After 1964, he trained physicians for research in his field and developed educational programs on the history and social responsibility of science.
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