History of Situs Inversus

Marco Severino (1580-1656) first recognized dextrocardia in 1643.  Severino, an Italian surgeon and anatomist, was apparently the first to document a finding of the human heart being on the right hand side of the body.  He died of plague in 1656 in Naples.  |  Reference  |


More than a century later, Matthew Baillie (1761-1823) described the complete mirror image reversal of the thoracic and abdominal organs in Situs Inversus.  Baillie was a Scottish physician and pathologist.  In 1793, he published The Morbid Anatomy of Some of the Most Important Parts of the Human Body.  His book is considered the first systematic study of pathology and the first publication in English on pathology as a separate subject.  Baillie is credited with first identifying transposition of the great vessels (TGV) and situs inversus. 

It has been indicated that Situs effects .01% of the human population.  It is also been calculated that 1 in 10,000 people have this anomaly.  Therefore, if the human population totals 8 billion, there are 800,000 people who have Situs Inversus Totalis.



• In the Ian Fleming novel Dr. No, Julius No explains to James Bond that he once survived a murder attempt because his heart is located on his right side, which his would-be-killers did not know when they stabbed the spot on the left where the heart of a normal human being would be.


• Souther, from the anime/manga Fist of the North Star, has situs inversus totalis making him immune to standard martial arts pressure-points.


• In an episode of the television show In Plain Sight, an ATF agent survives an attempt on his life because his heart is on the right side of his body.


• In the WB series Jack & Jill, Simon Rex played a young man with situs inversus.


• Fortune, from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Revolver Ocelot points this out when he shoots Fortune on the left side of her chest, then remembers and states that her heart was on the right side.


• In an ER episode entitled "Freak Show", Romano, Benton and Corday operate on a unique case involving a boy with reversed organs.


• In a story called "The Trap," which H. P. Lovecraft helped write, one of the characters is sucked into an interdimensional rift by an antique mirror. When he returns his organs, and in fact his handedness (which hand is dominant) are both reversed.


• In Margaret Mahy's novel The Tricksters, the character Hadfield is said to be an exact mirror image of his otherwise identical twin Felix, including having his vital organs in mirror-image layout.


• In the Lord Peter Wimsey short story The Image in the Mirror by Dorothy Sayers, a character with reversed organs has long been haunted by dreams of a doppelgänger and by fears that he himself might be only the reflection of someone else.


• In the A. E. van Vogt short story "The Search," the unique trait of people who can travel through time is that they have reversed internal organs.


• In the Max Brooks novel World War Z, a character describes operating on a patient who had dextrocardia with situs inversus, and transplants a heart from someone with the same condition. Unbeknownst to him, the transplant heart is infected with the virus Solanum, thus turning the patient into a zombie.


• In the science fiction novel Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny the character Fred Cassidy goes through a device that completely reverses the left-right symmetry of his entire body (even to the point where he perceives writing and other images as their mirror image). The fact that his heart is on the wrong side ends up saving him from being killed by a bullet wound.


• In the science fiction short story Technical Error by Arthur C. Clarke, a man is inverted extradimensionally in a strong magnetic field due to an industrial accident. Doctors find he is unable to digest food due to the nutrient molecules being incompatible with his reversed enzymes and receptors. Efforts to re-invert him prove catastrophic.


• In the Hindi movie Luck (2009), the character 'Ram' has his heart on the right side instead of the left which saves his life.


• In Audrey Niffenegger's novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, the main characters are mirror twins, one of whom, Valentina, has situs inversus.


• In the movie Ninja Assassin, a Europol agent Mika gets stabbed where her heart should be. Everyone thinks her to be dead, but then Raizo proclaims that her heart is "special" (meaning on the right side instead of left) and she survives. Also, in the beginning of the movie there is an old man, a tattoo artist, who should have died 57 years ago from a sword to the heart, but survived because his heart was located on the right side of the body as well.


• In 2008 horror movie The Broken protagonist Gina McVey, a radiologist, is seen discussing a patient with Dextrocardia situs inversus early in the film.


• In the series Traces, Roll Call a character called Emily Wonder has the condition


• In the manga Black Jack, the protagonist has a patient who has situs inversus totalis, in which he operates using a mirror that Pinoko provided so that he can see the organs "normally"