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A sanatorium (also sanitorium, sanitarium) is a medical facility for long-term illness, typically tuberculosis. A distinction is sometimes made between "sanitarium" (a kind of health resort, as in the Battle Creek Sanitarium) and "sanatorium" (a hospital).


The rationale for sanatoria was that before antibiotic treatments existed, a regimen of rest and good nutrition offered the best chance that the sufferer's immune system would "wall off" pockets of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) infection. In 1863, Hermann Brehmer opened the Brehmerschen Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke in Görbersdorf marker, Silesia, for the treatment of tuberculosis, where patients were exposed to plentiful amounts of high altitude fresh air and good nutrition. Tuberculosis sanatoria became common throughout Europe from the end of the late 19th century onwards.

The Adirondack Cottage Sanitariummarker, established in Saranac Lake, New Yorkmarker, in 1882, was the first such establishment in North America. According to the Saskatchewan Lung Association, when the National Anti-Tuberculosis Association (Canada) was founded in 1904, it was felt that a distinction should be made between the health resorts with which people were familiar and the new tuberculosis treatment hospitals: "So they decided to use a new word which instead of being derived from the Latin noun sanitas, meaning health, would emphasize the need for scientific healing or treatment. Accordingly, they took the Latin verb root sano, meaning to heal, and adopted the new word sanatorium.

Switzerlandmarker had many sanatoria, as it was believed that clean mountain air was the best treatment for lung diseases. In Finlandmarker a series of tuberculosis sanatoriums were built throughout the country in isolated forest areas, the most famous of these being the Paimio Sanatoriummarker, built in 1930 and designed by world-renowned architect Alvar Aalto, with its rooftop terraces where the patients would lay all day on specially designed chairs, the so-called Paimio Chair. In Portugalmarker, the Heliantia Sanatorium in Valadares, was used for the treatment of bone tuberculosis between the 1930s and 1960s.

In the early 20th century, tuberculosis sanatoria became common in the United Statesmarker. The first tuberculosis sanatorium for blacks was Burkeville, Virginiamarker's Piedmont Sanatorium. Waverly Hills Sanatoriummarker, a Louisville, Kentuckymarker, tuberculosis sanatorium, was founded in 1911. It has become a mecca for curiosity-seekers who believe it is haunted. Because of its dry climate, Colorado Springsmarker was home to several sanatoriums. A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Floridamarker is the last remaining freestanding tuberculosis sanatorium in the United States.

After 1943, when Albert Schatz, a graduate student at Rutgers Universitymarker, discovered streptomycin, the first true cure for tuberculosis, sanatoriums began to close. As in the case of the Paimio Sanatorium, many were transformed into general hospitals. Around the 1950s, tuberculosis was no longer a major public health threat and so most of the sanatoriums had reached the end of their lives. Most sanatoriums were demolished years ago.

Some, however, have assumed updated medical roles. The Tambaram Sanatorium in south Indiamarker is now a hospital for AIDS patients. The state hospital in Sanatorium, Mississippimarker is now a regional mental retardation center.

In the former Soviet Unionmarker, the term has a slightly different meaning. There a sanatorium is mostly a combination of a resort/recreational facility and a medical facility intended to provide short-term complex rest and medical services; thus, it is similar to spa resorts.

In popular culture

  • The Magic Mountain, a novel by the German author Thomas Mann first published in in 1924, is set in a sanatorium.
  • In Erich Maria Remarque's Three Comrades, Pat goes to a mountain sanatorium to stay over winter.
  • One of the characters in The Dressmaker, a 1973 novel by Beryl Bainbridge set in the 1950s, is sent to a sanatorium.
  • Alice Cooper's 1978 concept album, From The Inside, was based on his experiences at a New York sanatorium for alcoholism treatment.
  • Critically acclaimed but little-known 1958 novel The Rack, by A.E. Ellis (pseudonym of Derek Lindsay), is set in a T.B. sanatorium in the French Alps.
  • "Welcome Home " is a well-known song by the heavy metal band Metallica.
  • In Koji Suzuki's Ringu, the well where Sadako drowns was originally on the grounds of a T.B. sanatorium in Japan.
  • Betty MacDonald's semi-autobiographical novel, 'The Plague and I'. From her early symptoms to diagnosis and her year spent in a sanatorium near Seattle, (USA), the story is told light-heartedly without denigrating the seriousness of her illness.
  • In Silent Hill Origins, one of the areas Travis goes to is the Silent Hill sanatorium.
  • In Battlefield 2 Special Forces, there is a map called Devil's Perch, Which a cap point is a Sanatorium.
  • In the 1983 film Scarface, Tony Montana and Manolo mention a sanatorium.
  • Andrea Barrett set her 2007 novel The Air We Breathe in the Adirondacks at an early 20th-century sanatorium.

See also


  1. "The Sanatorium Age:'"Sanatorium' vs. 'Sanitarium', An History of the Fight Against Tuberculosis in Canada]
  2. Sanitarium, sanatorium, sanitorium — The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, 1993
  3. [1]
  4. A.G. Holley Hospital
  5. Govt. Hospital of Thoracic Medicine


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