Karel Frederik Wenckebach

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Karel Frederik Wenckebach (March 24, 1864 - November 11, 1940) was a Dutch anatomist who was a native of the Hague. He studied medicine in Utrecht, and in 1901 become a professor of medicine at the University of Groningen. Later he was a professor at the Universities of Strasbourg (1911-14) and Vienna (1914-29).

Wenckebach is primarily remembered for his work in cardiology. In 1899 he provided a description of irregular pulses due to partial blockage of atrioventricular conduction which created a progressive lengthening of conduction time in cardiac tissue. This condition was referred to as a "second degree AV block" (Mobitz Type I), and later named the Wenckebach phenomenon.

Wenckebach is also credited for describing the median bundle of the heart's conductive system that leads to the atrioventricular node. This bundle was named Wenckebach's bundle, and is one of four internodal pathways, the others being; the posterior internodal tract (Thorel's pathway), and the two branches of the anterior internodal tract (Bachmann's bundle plus a descending branch). Wenckebach was also an early advocate regarding the use of quinine for treatment of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

Selected writings

  • Arythmie als Ausdruck bestimmter Funktionsstörungen des Herzens (1903, Engelse vertaling: (1904)
  • Die unregelmässige Herztätigkeit und ihre klinische Bedeutung (1914)
  • Herz- und Kreislaufinsufficienz (1931)


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