The Jugular Venous Pulse – Circa 1957

May 6, 2015


In 1902 Sir James Mackenzie published a book entitled “The Study of the Pulse. Arterial, venous, and hepatic and of the movements of the heart” that described his studies on the jugular pulse using what would later and famously be known as the“Mackenzie polygraph”. He was the first to make recordings of the arterial and venous pulses simultaneously, creating the foundation for future work to understand flow of blood through the heart.


Sir James Mackenzie, M.D.

Using many of Dr. Mackenzie’s teachings, the video below teaching the examination of the jugular venous pulse was produced in 1957. It was created in collaboration with Dr. Paul Wood, a British cardiologist who was regarded by many as the greatest cardiologist of his time. Dr. Wood’s contribution to the importance of bedside medicine was significant. In 1950, he published “Diseases of the Heart and Circulation”. This textbook quickly became the “bible of cardiology” leaving many desperate to find a copy. It emphasized how clinicians were expected to make a preliminary diagnosis through the bedside exam with subsequent tests for confirmation.

Paul Wood, M.D.

In this video, provided by Wellcome Library, Dr. Woods discusses the Mackenzie polygraph and explains the waves of the jugular venous pulse. This is followed by the demonstration of various patients with cardiac disease and the characteristic jugular venous pulses seen in each patient.

The same principles of the examination of the jugular venous wave still hold true today! The last patient is a case. Can you diagnose the patient before he explains the answer?

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