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October 2021

Was Frédéric Chopin's illness actually cystic fibrosis?

Journal/Book: Med J Aust. 1987; 147: 586-9.

Abstract: Since Chopin's death 140 years ago, no one has questioned seriously the theory that he died of tuberculosis, in spite of the knowledge that many of the physicians who treated his illness considered tuberculosis an unlikely cause of his chronic respiratory disease, which was of at least 24 years' duration. Although 170 cm in height, Chopin weighed less than 45 kg throughout his life. He was noticeably emaciated and had a marked tendency to lose weight after respiratory infections and with dietary indiscretion. His exercise tolerance remained far below that of his peers throughout his lifetime. He was affected by a debilitating chronic cough, which was often productive and was worst in the morning. This cough persisted from before 15 years of age until his death of cor pulmonale at 39 years of age. Chopin suffered multiple acute, severe respiratory infections of both the upper and lower respiratory tracts which worsened in winter. He had haemoptysis for 18 years. In later life he grew markedly barrel-chested. He may also have been infertile. Chopin's autopsy revealed gross cardiomegaly and changes in his lungs which were not consistent with cavitating tuberculosis. These features suggest that cystic fibrosis may have been the cause of his ill-health and death. Chopin's sister Emily, died at 14 years of age, possibly also of cystic fibrosis.

Keyword(s): Cystic Fibrosis|HI. Famous Persons|. Music|HI

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