Honoring the admiral: Boerhaave-van Wassenaer's syndrome

Bruce D. Adams, B. M. Sebastian, J. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Dr. Herman Boerhaave (1668-1738) first described esophageal rupture and the subsequent mediastinal sepsis based upon his careful clinical and autopsy findings and hundreds of references have since been written about Boerhaave's syndrome. Several fine historical accounts of this brilliant scientist have been published over the years and he has received appropriate credit for his valuable contributions. But what about that unfortunate propositus that Dr. Boerhaave attended to, performed necropsy upon, and subsequently received acclaim with? Medical history pays inadequate regard to the Baron Jan Gerrit van Wassenaer heer van Rosenberg, Prefect of Rhineland and Grand Admiral of the Dutch Fleet. This figure was a nobleman and war hero at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age who played his role in steering the course of European history. Without this nobleman's heroic contemporaneous account, Boerhaave's celebrated impact on medical science would never have been realized. Therefore, we offer an overdue recitation of Admiral van Wassenaer's biography. Based on found precedent we propose that spontaneous rupture of the esophagus be henceforth referred to as the 'Boerhaave-van Wassenaer's syndrome'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-151
Number of pages6
JournalDiseases of the Esophagus
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Boerhaave's syndrome
  • Herman Boerhaave
  • Historical
  • Jan Gerrit van Wassenaer
  • Resuscitation
  • Septic shock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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