Summary - E. H. Grieg, the greatest Norwegian composer, was born in 1843. When he was in Leipzig he got specific (TBC) »pleurisy« of the left side. Therapeutic pneumothorax of the left lung was performed, which was often used as a method for treating tuberculosis at that time. He lived very stressfully, therefore his symptoms increased, especially at night. He suffered from respiratory insufficiency, which was worsened by asthmatic attacks. He was hospitalized in Bergen several times because of the pulmonary heart disease which in the end caused heart failure. Before he died he had become disorientated and breathless. His long illness was the direct result of severe respiratory illness. The autopsy was performed and tubercular lesions were found in the remaining part of his lung with extensive pleural adhesions, accompanied by pulmonary heart disease and consecutively heart failure. Thanks to medical care, he was able to compose and reach the age of 64 years. He died in 1907.
Key words: Edvard H. Grieg; composer; history; pathography; tuberculosis; pleurisy; therapeutic pneumothorax; asthma; pulmonary hypertension; pulmonary heart disease; heart failure
The greatest Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was born on 15 June 1843 in Bergen, Norway. His was a family of musicians. He was destined to become Norway's greatest composer. His great-grandfather had migrated from Scotland to Bergen and obtained Norwegian citizenship in 1779.1-3
His mother, a virtuoso piano player, taught him to play the piano. When he was 15 years old he went to Leipzig, Germany, where he received formal music education.4-5
He stayed in Leipzig from 1 858-1 862. In those days he studied the piano and composition. He was very quiet, industrious and determined. In 1859 in Leipzig he got specific (TBC) »pleurisy« of the left side. He was about 150 cm tall, and through most of his adult life his health was very delicate. According to Dr. Hansen, he had collapsotherapy of the left lung (therapeutic pneumothorax) which was often used in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis at that time.6 The disease spread to the lungs and spine in addition to an advanced scoliosis in the thoracic columna. As a consequence, he suffered from numerous air tract infections and gradually from combined heart and lung failure.
The illness was marked by fever, breathlessness and chest pain which would get worse during inspiration. In spring 1860 he was bedridden for a long time because of tuberculous pleuritis. Nevertheless, he had good health and a remarkable capacity to work. In the last three years his shortness of breath increased very much and his strength failed. Even then he made his strenuous concert tours. Further therapy in Bergen did not help him in any way, so against his friends and family's advice he returned to Leipzig to finish his music-scholarship.7
Pleurisy and empyema occasionally occurred in primary tuberculosis (lung collapse may occur as a result of fibrous adhesion between the two layers of the pleura or through obstruction of the bronchi and the pleura can also occur in tuberculosis). By the 1890s his health had deteriorated but his mountaineering and outdoor activities continued.
We know little of Grieg's disease, but he was well treated by the doctors Harald Lehmann (1817-1873), Ole Bornemann Heilberg (1803-1878) and Daniel Cornelius Danielssen (1815-1893). He visited a lot of doctors in many countries because of his travel program. Prescriptions for medications (against insomnia and rheumatism) from Italy and many other countries exist today. The surgeon Niels Thorkild Rovsing (1862-1927), who was one of the pioneers in Danish gastric and intestinal surgery, helped him in Copenhagen. One of his friends was Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (1841-1912) who discovered the lepra bacillus. Until his last years of the life he strayed around Europe and gave concerts. Towards the end of his life Grieg had increasing breathing difficulties. …