Monday, January 9, 2017

1870: Biermer proves spasmotic theory once and for all

Michael Anton Biermer (1827-1892)
By experiments he published in 1854, Dr. M. Alton Wintrich convinced many physicians that asthma was caused by spasms of the diaphragm and not spasms of the bronchial tubes in the lungs.  Yet in 1870, experiments published by Michael Alton Biermer proved the spasmotic theory once and for all.

After Bert performed his experiments, Biermer ardently supported the spasmotic theory of asthma in a series of lectures in 1870. (1, page 194) (2, page 43)(3, pages 13-14) (5, page 11)

He believed the objections to the spasmotic theory of asthma based on the experiments of Bert "irrelevant," said Berkart, "for contraction of the thorax and the deficient resonance on percussion... could take place only if asthma were a spasm of the alveoli.

Along with the theories put forth by Bert, he proved that irritation of the vagus nerve caused contraction of bronchial muscles.(6, page 4)

According to Orville Brown he also "says that asthma is the result of swelling of the bronchial mucosa and a consequent obstruction of the smaller bronchi; the residual air in the alveoli then develop a greater tension and causes thereby a reflex spasm of the bronchial musculature. He reports a patient whose asthmatic seizures ended after the expectoration of a small feather." (16, page 34)

Thorowgood said:
Biermer observes that the bronchial muscles antagonise the muscles of inspiration, and so prevent over distension of lung. When, by frequent attacks of spasm, the nutrition of the bronchial muscles begins to fail, they no longer are able to antagonise the force of inspiration; or, by their contraction, to assist expiration, and thus that permanent condition of lung distension known as emphysema is brought about. (4, page 7)
Biermer published his wisdom on asthma in his 1870 book "Ueber Bronchioalasthma," and with Joseph Coats in the 1876 book "On bronchial Asthma."

  1. Geddings, W.H., author of the chapter on "Bronchial Asthma," in the book "A System of Practical Medicine," edited by William Pepper and Louis Star,Volume 3, 1885, Philadelphia, Lea Brothers and Co.
  2. Berkart, J.B., "On Asthma: It's pathology and treatment," 1878, London, J. & A. Churchill
  3. Thorowgood, John C., "Asthma and Chronic Bronchitis: A New Edition of Notes on Asthma and Bronchial Asthma," 1894, London, Bailliere, Tyndall, & Cox
  4. Thorowgood, John Charles, "Notes on Asthma," 1878, 3rd edition, London, J and A Churchill
  5. Dobell, Horace, "On Asthma; Its Nature and Treatment," 1886, London, Smith, Elder & Co.
  6. Shmiegelow, Ernst, "Asthma, considered specially in relation to nasal disease," 1890, London, H.K. Lewis
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