Acid-Base Physiology

5.4 - Metabolic Acidosis - Historical Note: Adolf Kussmaul

Adolf Kussmaul (1822-1902)

The hyperventilation which is found in patients with metabolic acidosis is called 'Kussmaul respirations' (or breathing) after the first description by the German physician Adolf Kussmaul.

In 1874. he wrote of his observations in patients dying with severe diabetic ketoacidosis:

" Since I have seen three diabetics in the course of a year die, with remarkably similar symptoms in which there was a peculiar comatose condition preceded and accompanied by dyspnoea, I believe that it…has to do with a form of death which…bears the closest relationship to the disturbances in the metabolism in diabetes…"

Above quote translated from: Kussmaul, Adolf. Zur lehre vom diabetes mellitus. Dtsch Arch Klin Med. 1874; 14:1-46

A recent biography can be found at:

Matteson, EL & Kluge FJ "Think clearly, be sincere, act calmly: Adolf Kussmaul (February 22, 1822-May 28, 1902) and his relevance to medicine in the 21st century." Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 15(1):29-34, January 2003.