Showing posts with label surgery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label surgery. Show all posts

Thursday, July 29, 2010

PR: NLM "Turning The Pages" Adds Richly Illustrated Japanese Manuscript

NLM "Turning The Pages" Adds Richly Illustrated Japanese Manuscript, Hanaoka Seishu's Influential Surgical Casebook


The National Library of Medicine, the world's largest medical library and an arm of the National Institutes of Health, announces the addition of Hanaoka Seishu's Surgical Casebook ( to its growing collection of virtual books and manuscripts available for thumbing through online via Turning the Pages ( The virtual volume is also available on kiosks in the Library's Visitor Center (Building 38A, first floor) and the History of Medicine Division Reading Room (Building 38, first floor), and marks the continued collaboration of the Library's Lister Hill Center and the History of Medicine Division.


The newest addition to Turning the Pages is a magnificently illustrated manuscript depicting the likenesses of the men and women who came to Hanaoka for treatment in early 19th-century Japan. It is the first in the collection in which users will turn the pages according to Japanese custom, right to left.



Hanaoka Seishu (1760-1835) was a pioneering Japanese surgeon who was the first to use general anesthesia to remove tumors from cancer patients. The images in the Surgical Casebook are colorful, often charming, and depict quite graphically the medical and surgical problem to be treated.



Hanaoka studied both traditional Chinese-style medicine and Western-style surgical techniques. At age 25, he took over the family business and began to practice an eclectic style of medicine that combined these two traditions. He was greatly concerned with his inability to treat cancer patients, and over a period of 20 years he developed an herbal concoction he called "mafutsusan," made up of several highly toxic plants. It did not include opium derivatives which European doctors were only beginning to identify as anesthetics. The narcotic effects of Hanaoka's anesthetic could last as long as 24 hours, allowing him to surgically remove many different kinds of tumors which previously had been inoperable.



Images from the manuscript were selected and curatorial text was written by Dr. Ann Jannetta, Professor Emerita of History at the University of Pittsburgh. The descriptive text can be viewed if one clicks the "T" in the upper left corner of the virtual book page.



Friday, July 23, 2010

Who is George Otis?

Dr. George Otis must be regarded as one of the mainstays of the Museum. He served for 17 years until his early death at 50 in 1881. Under his direction, the second, much larger Catalogue of the Army Medical Museum and the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion were published, as well as many shorter monographs. Over 100 years after his death, Otis has become something of a cipher. His personal life is hard to trace. He married Pauline Baury in 1850. They had three children, Agnes Pauline, Anna Maria, and Alfred Louis, but only the girls seem to have survived to adulthood. His wife apparently died as well, since in 1869 he married Genevieve Poe and later disinherited her for abandonment. Thousands of pages of his official correspondence exist, but the formal style of the nineteenth century gives little feeling for the man. We can turn instead to his friends. Otis is described by his colleague J.J. Woodward as, "Hesitating, often embarrassed in his manner in ordinary conversation, especially with strangers, he became eloquent when warmed by the discussion of any topic in which he took interest." Otis was born in Boston on November 12, 1830. His father died before his first birthday and his mother returned with her son to her native Virginia. Otis had an undistinguished career at Princeton, preferring to read French literature instead of the assigned material. He returned to Virginia and privately studied in Richmond. He received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in April, 1851. He spent the rest of that year and the next studying in Paris. A coup d'etat gave him the opportunity to begin a first-hand study of military medicine. He returned to Virginia in spring 1852 and the next year began the Virginia Medical and Surgical Journal. The Journal, in competition with the Stethoscope, was not a financial success. Otis sold a partial interest to Dr. James McCaw and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts but maintained his connection as corresponding editor. McCaw later became known for his organization of Chimbarozo Hospital in Richmond for the Confederacy. Otis enlisted as a surgeon in the 27th Massachusetts Volunteers to particpate in the war. He moved over to the regular army as the war continued and joined the Museum staff in 1864.

Otis wrote the first two volumes of the Surgical Section of the Medical & Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion as well as curating the collection of bones. He also oversaw the Division of Surgical Records. Otis supervised or created four photographic collections, the Surgical, Medical, Microscopical and Anatomical, which loosely paralleled the arrangement of the Museum. The Medical Series photographs, a very small run, consists of now little-used pictures of colons made by Woodward, who during the war was looking for physical clues to the cause of disease, especially the "alvine fluxes" or dysentery and diarrhea. Woodward also took thousands of Microscopical Series photographs in which he experimented with photomicrographs using artificial lights and specialized stains. Otis's Anatomical Series photographs compared skulls of aboriginal people throughout the world. This work stemmed from an arrangement with Secretary Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institution, under which the Army Medical Museum became the government's home for human anthropological remains while the Smithsonian handled cultural remains. Otis had plans for a larger publication (probably like the Surgical Photographs) and began compiling a checklist of the specimens which was published for the 1876 Centennial. The Army was not interested in funding this project though, and most of the photographs and remains were returned to the Smithsonian some years after Otis's death. Otis was also an accomplished surgeon and performed the difficult amputation at the hipjoint on Julius Fabry, removing the infected remains of his femur. Fabry survived for many years after the second operation.

Otis stayed with the Museum through a stroke in 1877 until his death in 1881. He continued working on Museum projects even after the stroke made him an invalid.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Letter of the Day: June 4 (3 of 3)

Curatorial Records: Numbered Correspondence 702

Boeckmann’s Sterilizer, etc.

June 4, 1895

To the Surgeon General, U.S. Army,
Washington, D.C.


Referring to your letter of June 3, 1895, I beg to state that the Boeckmann’s Steam Sterilizer and metal box for sterilizing catgut was received by me on June 8, 1894. I would further state that, as far as the records of this office show or as my recollection bears me out, no report was requested concerning the merits of this sterilizer. Since the date of its receipt, however, it has been in constant use in the Laboratory of the Army Medical School, and has given complete satisfaction. The inventor’s effort to supply an inexpensive sterilizer for saturated steaming, low over-steam, appears to have been perfectly realized in this apparatus. I first saw it in St. Paul, in the spring of 1893, and was at that time favorably impressed with its superiority as a steam sterilizer. I have not tried the sterilization of catgut since its receipt at the Laboratory, but will do so at once if this is desired.

I very much regret that I should have been under the impression that no report was required concerning the merits of this apparatus.

Very respectfully,
Walter Reed
Surgeon, U.S. Army,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Letter of the Day: April 21 - one half-barrel

U.S.A. General Hospital,

Beverly, N.J.,

April 21st 1865




I have the honor to transmit herewith Express Co.’s receipt for one half-barrel containing Anatomical Specimens. Reports of both cases (amputation at the hip joint) were forwarded several days ago with the Quarterly Report of Surgical Operations, in which the cases from whom the specimens were obtained are represented by Hospital Numbers 665 & 1955.


Very respectfully

Your Obdt Servt

C. Wagner,

Asst Surgeon USA

Comdg Hospital



Curator of the Army Med Museum

Surgeon General’s Office

Washington DC

Monday, March 1, 2010

Letter of the Day: March 1 (1 of 2)

The citations listed here may very well be spelled wrong as the letter was hard to read.


Mar 1 / 86


1362 N Gilman [Baltimore, MD]


Dr. Jno S. Billings U.S.A.


My dear Doctor,


Dr. Alex H. Bayly of Cambridge, MD, used the artificial magnet successfully in removing spicula of iron from the cornea, in 1846.


I claim that this is the first use – not only in Maryland, but in the U.S.


I am looking up the literature of the subject to trace the earliest use of the magnet in Eye Surgery.


If you have the works below in your library, will you be good enough to give me the passages cited that have a bearing on this point, and the date of editions you quote from –


Matthiohrs Commentaria in Discodene Let 5 @ 105


Kirchringius Spicilegia Anat – Observ. 44


Fabicius Hildassus Guliet. Cent -5. Observ. 21 “Descoria chalybis cornea infixa ejusdemque inginiossissima curatone”


With much resp.

Yours truly


Jno. R. Quinan


Note reads “References & quotations sent March 6th 1886.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Letter of the day: January 22nd

Here’s a letter showing both how the Museum expanded its interests and influences after the Civil War, and how the photographic collection grew. By the way, this was a very rare operation even through the Civil War. When a surgeon performed one, the case was named after him.


Surgeon General’s Office

Washington City, DC

January 22nd, 1868




I am instructed by the Surgeon General to acknowledge the reception of your interesting letter of the 20th inst. A photograph of the patient on whom you operated eighteen years ago, and who has so long survived so dreadful a mutilation, would be a very interesting addition to our collection. In a few days, I will send you a picture we have secured of Dr. Morton’s patient taken nearly a year after the photograph from which the plate in Circular No. 7 S.G.O., 1867, was copied.


I should be glad to secure a picture of your patient of about the same size. The expence (sic) will be defrayed from the Army Medical Museum Fund.


Please instruct the photographer to print four or five copies and to send them with the negative to me at the Army Medical Museum, No. 454, Tenth Street, Washington, together with the bill.


The Surgeon General is much gratified that you and other surgeons of practical experience, in the operation of amputation at the hip-joint, commend the report he has published on the subject.


I am, Doctor,

Very respectfully,

Your obt. servant,

By order of the Surgeon General:


[George A. Otis]

Ass’t Surgeon, U.S.A.

Curator Army Medical Museum


Dr. Washington T. Duffee

N.E. corner of 18th & Wallace Sts.

Philadelphia, Penna



Monday, March 2, 2009

'Brought to Life' Exhibit Features Battlefield Surgery Web Exercise

More than a few blogs are pointing out the opening of the new 'Brought to Life' exhibit at the Science Museum in London. This is from the Wellcome Library's blog:

Today has seen the launch of 'Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine', a new online resource from the Science Museum.

The website showcases more than 2,500 objects, the majority of which were originally collected by or on behalf of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936). Mostly populated by items now held in the Science Museum’s stores, the website also draws on items from the Wellcome Library.

'Brought to Life' places these items in their historical contexts, giving information on practitioners, their techniques, the medical objects they used and the patients they aimed to heal, all wrapped up in a timeline stretching from Ancient Egypt to the present day. There are also ten multimedia games, including a trip to a plague-ridden town in the Middle Ages and an immersive account of battlefield surgery through the ages.

Considering our own interests in battlefield surgery, I thought it was worth re-posting the Wellcome note here. I checked out the battlefield surgery exercise, pretty cool stuff.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

A simple checklist

The Washington Post reports on an article published in today's New England Journal of Medicine that says verbal checklists used before, during, and after surgery can cut death rates “by nearly half, to 0.8 percent from 1.5 percent, and other complications falling to 7 percent from 11 percent.” This reminded me of an article we read a while ago about how a checklist used at Johns Hopkins for patients with I.V. lines dramatically cut infection rates. Of course there are those who are skeptical of the recent study with all the “yeah, but” comments, but what does it cost, how much effort does it take, and where is the harm in running through a checklist? If it was me under the knife, my choice would be to checklist away.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Smile Train

I've been lucky enough to be in a position to make some donations to The Smile Train. If you're not familiar with this organization, they have figured out a way to repair cleft lips and palates in children all over the world for as little as $250, and in as little as 45 minutes. For those of us used to American medicine, this is miraculous.

How do they do it?

They train medical teams in-country using virtual training software, thereby eliminating costly travel and training expenses. Since 1999, their administration and overhead, as a percentage of total expense, has averaged about 2%. Two percent!

The Smile Train trains staff in 75 of the world's poorest countries and since 2000 has repaired cleft lip and cleft palate in more than 355,500 children. They were recently in Iraq where the circumstances dictated taking in a mobile operating theater (essentially a tricked-out 18-wheeler), where 66 children were treated and 15 Iraqi surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses were trained.

This is a remarkable organization for what they do and how they go about it. They have received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS and certified charity status from the Better Business Bureau.

Note that this post is not an official or unofficial endorsement by the Department of Defense, the Army, the AFIP, the museum, or the archives. Just me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Eakins' The Gross Clinic

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will bring back The Gross Clinic this summer. According to the latest newsletter, it is "described by some as the most important painting by any nineteenth-century American artist." It will be exhibited in gallery 119 from August 2 until February 2009. Read more about the painting itself, including how it was nearly lost to Philadelphia, at wikipedia.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kidney transplantations

The first kidney transplant took place not quite sixty years ago in 1950, but became more common after anti-rejection drugs appeared in 1964. Yesterday, doctors at Johns Hopkins transplanted six at one time, into five needy people. Historians of medicine (and all types actually) caution against viewing history as a simplistic march of progress, but sometimes progress is progress, no?