Dr. Sven Seldinger

Sven Seldinger

Karolinska University Hospital - Stockholm, Sweden

Sven Seldinger (1921-1998)


Percutaneous access


To insert a catheter, arterial access was possible with a puncture needle or by carrying out an arteriotomy. In 1953, Sven Ivar Seldinger (1921-98), a Swedish radiologist introduced a new technique permitting a simple and elegant manner for percutaneously introducing a catheter into an artery without using a cutdown technique. To improve the quality of aortography, a larger diameter catheter was required to reduce the injection duration. Sven Seldinger exchanged the cannula of a Cournand’s needle with a flexible catheter, and cut a side hole on the proximal part of the catheter to insert the needle through it, extending two mm beyond the catheter tip.


The catheter was introduced percutaneously, but it was too flexible and would not advance further into the artery. To overcome this difficulty, Sven Seldinger removed the needle and replaced it with a wire introduced through the entire length of the catheter to support it. After an unsuccessful attempt, Sven Seldinger found himself in a precarious situation with three objects in his hands: a needle, a wire and a catheter. Suddenly the right sequence dawned on him: the needle first ­­– the wire in the needle ­­– the needle withdrawn ­­– the catheter threaded on to the wire ­­– the catheter advanced ­­– the wire withdrawn. It seems today so obvious and natural! Sven Seldinger needed less time to perform a percutaneous arterial catheterization than to explain it in writing.


Sven Seldinger’s invention was not officially recognized in his lifetime. Thirty years later, it was Herbert Abrams who would praise the ingenuity of this man who revolutionized the practice of angiography.