Caesarean section is now the most commonly performed major operation in many parts of the world. A study published in The Lancet a few months ago estimated that around 30 million caesareans take place worldwide every year; in the UK over a quarter of babies are now born by caesarean, some 175,000 per year.
References to the operation go back … Read more
You may be familiar with this dramatic photo, which has been doing the rounds recently on social media (mainly thanks to Lindsey Fitzharris – @drlindseyfitz on Twitter – if you’re not following her, you should be)
It shows Leonid Ivanovich Rogozov, a Soviet doctor who in 1961, while stranded at an Antarctic research station, succeeded in taking out his own … Read more
Here’s an intriguing snippet reported by the Paris correspondent of the Lancet in September 1882:
We have now a patient in the Lariboisiere Hospital who has been operated on by Dr. Felizet for the removal of a spoon from the stomach. The patient was a waiter at a café who in a frolic accidentally swallowed a spoon. It was a … Read more
This fascinating case report was published in the Philosophical Transactions in 1701, contributed by a distinguished Dublin physician, Thomas Molyneux. It is notable both for the unusual nature of the injury, and for the remarkably sophisticated surgery that followed.
Dorcas Blake, a full-bodied sanguine maid, of about twenty years old…
Ms Blake was ‘sanguine’ in a particular medical sense. Since … Read more
In 1811 the novelist Fanny Burney underwent a mastectomy for suspected breast cancer. The operation was a total success: she lived for another 28 years without any recurrence of the tumour. Burney recorded her experience in a searing letter to her sister Esther. It’s a masterpiece of descriptive writing, an account so vivid that every agonising touch of the … Read more
At the 1887 Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association a surgeon from Sunderland, James Murphy, walked on stage brandishing a testicle. It was an arresting entrance, but no gimmick: he had a highly unusual story to tell. It concerned a patient who (for reasons which were not entirely clear) had decided to cut himself open rather than leave the … Read more
In 1847, at a meeting of the Paris Medical Society, Dr Jean-Baptiste Pigné gave a short talk about cancer. Pigné was the nephew of the great French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren, and had been appointed curator of the pathological museum founded by him. He concluded his lecture by describing an exceptional operation performed more than a decade earlier. It was subsequently … Read more
This blog has previously included a few cases in which a patient performed surgery on their own body. One of my favourites is the story of Colonel Martin, who found an ingenious way to reduce the size of a bladder stone, inserting a file up his own urethra to scrape it into submission.
That takes some beating, but in … Read more
In 1846 John Kyle, a surgeon from the Ohio village of Cedarville, submitted the following case report to The Western Lancet. The headline gives some indication of the unusual nature of the circumstances:
In the spring of 1846 I was called to see — Moore, a boy aged 2 years. He had been a very strong, healthy and fleshy … Read more
Sir Astley Cooper was the best known, and best paid, surgeon in early nineteenth-century London. He was a great innovator in the field of vascular surgery, devising new methods of treatment for aneurysms and other conditions of the blood vessels. His expertise was both deep and broad: he was an authority on hernias, limb fractures and amputations, and many other … Read more