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Pioneer Surgery in Kentucky A Sketch   By: (1826-1898)

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First Page:

PIONEER SURGERY IN KENTUCKY:

A SKETCH.

BY DAVID W. YANDELL, M. D.,

PROFESSOR OF CLINICAL SURGERY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE, KY; PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN SURGICAL ASSOCIATION.

LOUISVILLE:

PRINTED BY JOHN P. MORTON & COMPANY.

1890

THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS:

DELIVERED AT THE REGULAR ANNUAL MEETING OF THE

AMERICAN SURGICAL ASSOCIATION,

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 13, 1890.

PIONEER SURGERY IN KENTUCKY.

A SKETCH.

FELLOWS OF THE ASSOCIATION: In the endeavor to chronicle the lives and achievements of Kentucky Pioneers in Surgery, I shall not attempt the resurrection of village Hampdens or mute inglorious Miltons. The men with whom I deal were men of deeds, not men of fruitless promise.

It may with truth be said that from Hippocrates to Gross few in our profession who have done enduring work have lacked biographers to pay liberal tribute to their worth. In justice to the unremembered few, I turn back the records of medicine for a century, and put my finger upon two names that in the bustling march of science have been overlooked, while I try to set in fuller light two other names of workers in that day, which have and will hold an exalted place in history. The worthies to whom these names belong were pioneers in civilization as well as in surgery. I shall introduce them in the order of their work.

1806. The earliest original surgical work of any magnitude done in Kentucky, by one of her own sons, was an amputation at the hip joint. It proved to be the first operation of the kind in the United States. The undertaking was made necessary because of extensive fracture of the thigh with great laceration of the soft parts. The subject was a mulatto boy, seventeen years of age, a slave of the monks of St. Joseph's College. The time was August, 1806; the place, Bardstown; the surgeon, Dr. Walter Brashear; the assistants, Dr. Burr Harrison and Dr. John Goodtell; the result, a complete success. The operator divided his work into two stages. The first consisted in amputating the thigh through its middle third in the usual way, and in tying all bleeding vessels. The second consisted of a long incision on the outside of the limb, exposing the remainder of the bone, which, being freed from its muscular attachments, was then disarticulated at its socket.

Far seeing as the eye of the frontiersman was, he could not have discerned that the procedure by which he executed the most formidable operation in surgery came so near perfection that it would successfully challenge improvement for more than fourscore years.

Hundreds of hips have since been amputated after some forty different methods; but that which he introduced has passed into general use, and (though now known under the name of Furneaux Jordan's) remains the simplest, the least dangerous, the best.

The first genuine hip joint amputation executed on living parts was done by Kerr, of Northampton, England, 1774. The first done for shot wounds was by Larrey, in 1793. I feel safe in saying that Brashear had no knowledge of either of these operations. He therefore set about his work without help from precedent, placing his trust in himself, in the clearness of his own head, in the skill of his own hands, in the courage of his own heart. The result shows that he had not overestimated what was in him. But whether or not Brashear had ever heard or read a description of what had been accomplished in this direction by surgeons elsewhere, the young Kentuckian was the first to amputate at the hip joint in America, and the first to do the real thing successfully in the world.

Dr. Brashear seems to have set no high estimate on his achievement, and never published an account of the case. Had he done so, the art of surgery would thereby have been much advanced, his own fame have been made one of the precious heritages of his country, and, what is better, many valuable lives would have been saved.

Eighteen years after the Jesuits' slave had survived the loss of his limb, the report of the much eulogized case of Dr... Continue reading book >>




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