European Respiratory Society

A tribute: Abel Ayerza and pulmonary hypertension

J.A. Mazzei, M.E. Mazzei

In the history of research on pulmonary hypertension, one of the key landmarks was the clinical description of the disease, which was made in 1901 by Abel Ayerza.

From then on, in the international medical literature (especially the French, British and American literature), so-called “Ayerza's disease” encompassed various aetiological forms of pulmonary hypertension, discriminated today thanks to developments in the understanding of this disease and its current classification.

Abel Ayerza was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1861. After achieving a doctorate with a gold medal in 1886 from the School of Medicine at the University of Buenos Aries, he travelled to Paris, France where he specialised with Jean Martin Charcot and François Joseph Babinski at the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière, Pierre Carl Edouard Potain at the Hôpital de la Charité and François Sigismond Jaccoud at the Hôpital de la Pitié. On his return to Argentina, he joined the Hospital de Clínicas at the University of Buenos Aires, where, at the age of 37, he was appointed Professor of the First Chair of Medicine.

Figure 1.

Portrait of Dr Abel Ayerza (courtesy of the Ayerza family).

On August 20, 1901, Dr Ayerza described a patient with a history of chronic cough and sputum, dyspnoea, severe cyanosis, profound daytime sleepiness and manifestations of right heart failure. The patient was a 38-yr-old male who had suffered from pneumonia at 20 and 32 yrs of age and since then had had respiratory symptoms. Dyspnoea was severe at rest and there was central cyanosis, clubbed fingers and tachypnea. In …