the University of Turin, Department of Medicine and Surgery
The Riva-Rocci sphygmomanometer
Riva-Rocci was educated in medicine and surgery at the University of Turin, graduating from it in 1888. Six years later he graduated in pathology and in 1907 in pediatrics.
From 1888 to 1898 Riva-Rocci acted as assistant lecturer at the medical clinic in Turin. He also assisted Carlo Forlanini in the application of "iatrogenic pneumothorax" for treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, showing that the technique did not have a major adverse effect on lung function.
In 1900 Riva-Rocci became chief clinician and director of the civic hospital in Varese and held the position the next 28 years, retiring in 1928 due to a neurological condition.
In 1896 and 1897 he published a series of four articles (in Italian) on a new method for measuring blood pressure. Riva-Rocci's innovation consisted in compressing the brachial artery instead, at the level of the upper arm, whereas previous non-invasive methods were all based on compression of the radial pulse, but they were cumbersome and unreliable. For this purpose he devised an inflatable rubber tube, which was rigid on the outside. Disappearance of the radial pulse on palpation indicated the systolic arterial pressure, as Riva-Rocci confirmed by calibration experiments in animals and with human cadavers. His instrument was introduced world-wide after a chance visit by the American neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing.
From 1909 to 1916, he occupied the first chair of pediatrics at Pavia University.