A sanatorium (also sanitorium, sanitarium) is a medical facility for long-term illness, typically tuberculosis. A distinction was sometimes made between a "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 regime of rest and good nutrition offered the best chance that the sufferer's immune system would "wall off" pockets of pulmonary tuberculosis infection. In 1863, Hermann Brehmer opened the Brehmerschen Heilanstalt für Lungenkranke in Görbersdorf (Sokołowsko), 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 Sanitarium, established in Saranac Lake, New York 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" .
Switzerland had many sanatoria, as it was believed that clean mountain air was the best treatment for lung diseases. In Finland a series of tuberculosis sanatoriums were built throughout the country in isolated forest areas, the most famous of these being the Paimio Sanatorium, built in 1930 and designed by world-renowned architect Alvar Aalto, with its roof-top terraces where the patients would lay all day on specially designed chairs, the so-called Paimio Chair. In Portugal, the Heliantia Sanatorium in Valadares, was used for the treatment of bone tuberculosis between the 1930s and 1960s.
In the early twentieth century, tuberculosis sanatoria became common in the United States. The first tuberculosis sanatorium for blacks was Burkeville, Virginia's Piedmont Sanatorium. Waverly Hills Sanatorium, a Louisville, Kentucky tuberculosis sanatorium, was founded in 1911. It has become a mecca for curiosity-seekers who believe it is haunted . Colorado Springs, because of its dry climate was home to several sanatoriums. A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Florida is the last remaining freestanding tuberculosis sanatorium in the United States .
After 1943, when Albert Schatz, a graduate student at Rutgers University, discovered Streptomycin, the first true cure for tuberculosis, sanatoriums began to close, or (as in the case of the Paimio Sanatorium) 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 India is now a hospital for AIDS patients . The state hospital in Sanatorium, Mississippi is now a regional mental retardation center.
In the former Soviet Union the term has a slightly different meaning. It 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 common to spa resorts