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Revista Colombiana de Cardiología

Print version ISSN 0120-5633

Abstract

BARON C, Alberto. Balistocardiograph: history of an instrument for indirect assessment of heart performance. Rev. Colom. Cardiol. [online]. 2009, vol.16, n.1, pp.5-10. ISSN 0120-5633.

The ballistocardiogram is the registry of the body’s movement generated by the energy transmitted from the heart to the great arteries, as a consequence of the displacement of blood out from the ventricles and the recoil of the body. The energy transmitted cause a displacement in cephalic direction, and change in the opposite direction when the blood flows in the descending aorta. The system is formed by three parts: a mobile board in the horizontal plane, a system to register the corporal movement and an amplification system, to make possible generate a graphical register. The first description was made by Dr. JD. Gordon in 1877, when he registered the horizontal and vertical movements of a patient lying in a bed hanged by four supports. In the year 1905 Dr. Yandel Henderson was able to register the horizontal movements in a hanging panel and a series of pulleys; for the register he used a quimograph. Dr. Isaac Starr assigns the name to the instrument and made an indirect ballistocardiograph in 1939, printing the waves in photographic paper. Few years after, doctors Dock and Taubman designed the first direct ballistocardiograph, using metallic rods adjusted to the patient’s tibia. Henderson and Bixby improved precision of the calibration by the use of a microscope. Authors like doctors Hamilton, Dow, Thompson, Rappaport and Sprague described the waves and their relationship with events of the cardiac cycle. The correlation with phonocardiography and the registry of carotid and venous pulse, and the apexcardiogram, was of great importance to relate the waves with physiological events. Dr. Starr recognized the relationship between the waves and cardiac output and it’s usefulness in the follow-up of patients with heart failure. Luis Carlos Barón Plata, a cardiologist born in Bogotá, designed and handcrafted a direct ballistocardiograph. It differed from Dock and Taubman’s machine in the way of obtaining the corporal movements: he designed a sensor placed in contact with the head in order to record the displacement of the cranium. With this he was able to register adequately the ballistocardiographic waves. The construction was austere and was connected by two cables to the electrocardiograph. With the development of simpler and more accurate methods to observe and quantify the heart’s physiology, the ballistocardiography lost popularity, and that technique has disappeared from almost all the cardiology units.

Keywords : balistocardiogram; cardiac output; history of cardiology.

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