Pediatric Radiology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 38–42 | Cite as

Situs inversus, bronchiectasis, and sinusitis and its relation to immotile cilia: history of the diseases and their discoverers—Manes Kartagener and Bjorn Afzelius

  • Walter E. BerdonEmail author
  • Ulrich Willi
Historical Review


The relationship of Kartagener’s syndrome to immobile cilia syndrome is a fascinating merging of clinical observations and basic science in Zurich, Stockholm, and Toronto. In 1933, Manes Kartagener, a Zurich pulmonary physician, reported four patients with the triad of sinusitis, bronchiectasis, and situs inversus. In the following decades, he reviewed reports of hundreds of cases, but the fact that the male patients with the condition never had offspring eluded his notice. In the 1970s, Bjorn Afzelius, a Ph.D. ultrastructuralist from Stockholm, reported cilia immotility in infertile males, some of the cases occurring in families. Half of the cases had Kartagener’s triad. The observation of Afzelius was soon applied to children by Jennifer Sturgess, a Ph.D. ultrastructuralist, and her medical colleagues in Toronto. With over 500 MEDLINE references since 1966 on Kartagener’s and over 1,000 references on immotile cilia, the causes of the pulmonary infections have become clearer as the patients demonstrate impaired clearance of mucus with resultant sinus and bronchial disease. The cause of the situs inversus remains elusive to this day. It is appropriate to call the condition Kartagener-Afzelius syndrome.


Situs inversus Bronchiectasis Sinusitis Triad Immotile cilia 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of RadiologyChildren’s Hospital of New YorkNew York
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyUniversity of Zurich Children’s Hospital

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