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Traumatology and Orthopedic surgery in Europe

Adapted from U. Heim’s historical review previously published in EFORT Bulletin

Accidental injury can be traced back throughout the history of mankind. Its treatment is surgical and first concerned with saving life, and only then limbs or organs.

Emergency surgery is a dramatic art, the progress of which has been intimately linked to warfare. Two remarkable military surgeons were J.F. Percy (1754-1825) and D. Larrey (1768-1842) (Fig.1). Against military orders, they went with teams and equipment (the flying ambulance) on to the Napoleonic battlefields to render immediate aid to the wounded. Their example was long forgotten. It is only very recently that the surgeon himself has again been able to be present at the site of modern traffic carnage.

Orthopedic surgery has its roots in antiquity. There was knowledge of the malformations and deformities of growth, but no means of remedying them. “Cripples were left to survive only by begging. Their plight was finally addressed (J. Rousseau: Discourse on the origins and foundations of the inequality among men: Academy of Dijon, 1754) with a new concept to take care of them: to correct their lesions, to educate them and, if possible, to return them to society. By clearing them from the streets and into closed establishments the esthetic sensibilities of the bourgeoisie were protected!

The first person to propose constructive therapeutic ideas was Andry (1658-1742), the irascible Professor of Medicine in Paris and enemy of surgeons, who wrote in 1741 Orthopaedics or The art of preventing and correcting body deformities in children, published in English in 1743 and in German in 1744. He had launched a movement.

In 1780 J.A.Venel(1740-179l), who qualified in Monipellier, founded the first Orthopedic Institute at Orbe, in the Bernese countryside of the Vaud. This served as a model for many similar Europe-wide establishments that were to open in the first decades of the 19th century.



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