Italian Pioneers in Cardionephrology: how some fundamental Italian cardiorenal researches have passed into oblivion


A historical research was made on papers published by Italian scientists on cardiorenal diseases. The investigated period is between the beginning of the 20th century and the entry of Italy into the Second World War, 1940. 34 papers dealing with the relationship between the kidney and the cardiovascular system were retrieved. All but two articles were published in Italian medical periodicals. The topics covered are varied and range from cardiotoxicity of substances in uremia to the role of renal disease in vascular damage. Some articles are forerunners of later pathophysiological concepts and research technologies. These concern early atherosclerotic vascular damage and the presence of dialyzable cardiotoxic substances in renal insufficiency. Unfortunately, these highly innovative researches have had little diffusion and have fallen into oblivion in Italy and abroad. In conclusion, our research shows that in the first half of the 20th century in Italy there was a lively interest in cardio-renal diseases and that some researchers had produced precursor results of what was confirmed many years later.

Keywords: cardionephrology, cardiorenal studies, Italian scholars, history of nephrology

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  1. Introduction

    Thanks to the Mario Timio’s series of congresses in Assisi, dedicated to Cardionephrology, this branch of Nephrology has experienced growing success in Italy and in the world since 1987 [1]. Although the term Cardionephrology apparently was coined in 1991, studies on the relationship between kidney disease and the heart have a much longer history [24]. An attempt to define cardiorenal disease was made in 1914 in Philadelphia by the renowned clinician Alfred Stengel (1868-1939). According to this eminent clinician “the term comprises cases of combined cardiovascular and renal disease without such manifest predominance of either as to justify a prompt determination of the one element as primary and important and the other as secondary and unimportant” [5]. This term was also used in death certificates in USA [4]. Among the early studies on cardiorenal syndromes, the best known are those performed in UK, France and USA [3, 4]. 

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