Antonio Valsalva (Italian scientist)

10/10/2017 Off Di Adriano Venditti

Antonio Valsalva (1666-1723) 

Antonio Maria Valsalva is an Italian medical doctor, a surgeon and a professor of Anatomy who was born in Imola. He was one of the very important scientists in the seventeenth century in Europe. During his academic life, he had contributed many important findings in his field. He had described and named many structures of the human body. Although he is largely known for “Valsalva Manoeuvre”, he had other contributions which worth mentioning. So, Let’s take a look at this important scholar!


 Prof.Valsalva has dedicated so much of his time to study Anatomy, thanks to the teaching and supervision by his professor Marcello Malpighi (who is considered the founder of microscopic Anatomy and I will write about him in the coming future). He was interested in the auditory system more than any other field. He even published a book called “De Aura Humana Tractatus” which means the study of Human Ear in 1704. This book was considered the most important reference book for the human ear in previous centuries. On his book, he was the first one to name the “Eustachian Tube” which links throat to the middle ear. He could describe the three parts of the human ear (internal, middle and external). He was the first one to describe “Tragicus” and so it is called “Valsalva Muscle”. Tragicus is an intrinsic muscle of the outer ear. In addition, he described the ligaments which attach the auricle ( part of external ear) to the side of the head. These ligaments are called “Valsalva Ligaments” and they are anterior, posterior and superior. Moreover, “Valsalva Antrum” is an air space in the temporal bone which was described by Prof.Valsalva.


Now, Let’s talk about his most famous technique “Valsalva  Manoeuvre”. Basically, it’s a forced exhalation (breathing out) while closing the epiglottis and nose. Although this valsalva manoeuvre seems rudimentary and very easy to carry out by yourself, it gives useful information to doctors in order to make/confirm their diagnosis. This manoeuvre is used across a wide array of fields s

uch as Cardiology (there’re many applications of the manoeuvre for different heart symptoms or pathologies), Neurology and Urology. By using Valsalva Manoeuvre, a doctor may be able to palpate an enlarged sub-clavicular lymph node which may be the case in some tumours. It can be used also in other activities such as diving and weight lifting for other purposes. It may be used by pilots as well in order to balance the pressure in the middle ear. As a medical student in Italy, you should encounter this manoeuvre by the third year during the course of Clinical Symptomatology (or semiotics).So, don’t miss it out! 



  rof.Valsalva was a skilful surgeon as well and he conducted a few experiment on dogs and birds. He described three sinuses in the heart which are called 

“Valsalva Sinuses”. They are located between the wall of the aorta and each of the three cusps of the aortic valve. In Psychiatry, he believed that madness was not a mental disease but organic and therefore patients deserved to be treated in a humanitarian way. Professor Valsalva was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Society of London.



ifferent people from different parts of the world remember Prof.Valsalva andin order not to forget this great scholar there were things named after him. Valsalva Device is a device used in spacesuits to block astronauts noses. Valsalva retinopathy is a particular form of retinopathy, described by the Ophthalmologist Thomas Duane in 1972. After his death, a marble was built specifically to remember Professor Valsalva at Bologna University.