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Legends of Surgery

Legends of Surgery is a podcast that tells the stories of the people and events that make up the history of modern surgery, told in an informal, entertaining and educational manner.
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Legends of Surgery
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Nov 15, 2019

This is another episode provided by Dr. David Sigmon! He covers the history of a surgeon who had a successful, but not necessarily legendary, surgical career. So why are we covering Dr. Barry? Because of an astounding secret that was carried to the grave! The revelation was so scandalous, the British military kept it secret for decades. To find out more about this mystery, have a listen!

Nov 1, 2019

In this episode, new host and collaborator for the show, Dr. David Sigmon, tells the horrifying tale of the Japanese surgeon Dr. Shiro Ishii and Japan's infamous Unit 731. While his acts were terrible, they were not only tolerated but encouraged at the time. And both the US and USSR failed to properly prosecute him or his unit. It is difficult to hear some of these details, and the podcast may be too graphic for some, so listener beware. But it is important to remember history, even some of the darker sides of the history of surgery. 

Oct 16, 2019

Despite the title, this episode is about far more than just the first prostatectomy performed for cancer treatment. The life of American urologist Dr. Hugh Hampton Young is covered, as well as a little part of the history of prostate surgery. And as a special bonus, there is a mini-podcast in the podcast, covering a famous surgeon of the Wild West, who lived a Forrest Gump-like life! You'll have to listen to the episode to learn more; I hope you enjoy it!

Sep 18, 2019

In this bonus episode, we welcome a new member to the Legends of Surgery team, Dr. David Simon, a general surgery resident at the University of Chicago currently researching surgical education at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote this episode, which covers the history of the discovery of the adrenal glands, the efforts made to understand its function, and, of course, the pioneers who first operated on these glands. We'll also learn how some of the diseases produced by the adrenals have effected history, and in particular a famous American president, at a very inopportune time in history!

Aug 13, 2019

In this episode, we cover one of the most influential books in the history of surgery, the 'De Humane Corporis Fabrica', and its author, Andreas Vesalius. In doing so, we'll also explore the outsized influence of the ancient Roman physician Galen on anatomical knowledge, and the challenges Vesalius faced in shaking the yoke of tradition through empirical evidence. One of the giants of Renaissance medicine, Vesalius laid the groundwork for the modern field of anatomy, and in so doing, modern surgery as well.

Jul 9, 2019

In this episode, we will explore the life and impact of French surgeon Ambroise Pare, who has been described as "one of the most luminous figures in the dark period of the late sixteenth century in France". A true Renaissance man, so to speak, Pare impacted a wide range of surgical practices. But his most significant impact was felt on the battlefields of Europe, as he modernized the treatment of gunshot wounds and amputations. All that, and more, in this episode!

May 15, 2019

There are few surgical interventions more dramatic than the thoracotomy - a desperate last-ditch effort to save a failing heart by manual compression. The history of the procedure is a fascinating one, dating back to the 19th century. This became the procedure of choice when a heart stopped, typically during surgery, but was eventually replaced by what we now call CPR. The history of the development of CPR is also covered, and of course, we'll take some interesting tangents. 

Mar 23, 2019

This episode is a bit different than previous, in that the first part is a review of the life and work of the famous cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard, who performed the world's first human heart transplant. The second part is an interview with cardiac surgeon Dr. David K. C. Cooper, who worked with Dr. Barnard, and wrote the definitive biography on him. We discuss Dr. Barnard, as well as the history of cardiac surgery, and even get into xenotransplantation! It was a pleasure to speak with him, and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Feb 18, 2019

In this episode, we'll cover the life of English surgeon Frederick Salmon, his clashes with the medical establishment at the time, and his creation of a fistula hospital that eventually became St. Mark's Hospital. Of course, we will get into a bit of explanation around the history of fistula-in-ano treatment, and deviate from the main story to explore some other interesting historical tidbits! 

Jan 14, 2019

In this episode, we will cover the German surgeon August Bier, and his creation of both spinal anesthesia, and the eponymously named Bier block, used commonly today for regional anesthesia. We'll also cover some less well known aspects of his career, and touch on his mentor, Johann von Esmarch, known for the Esmarch bandage (and so much more)! Of course, along the way, we'll meet up with some other players in the history of medicine and surgery. Finally, we will talk about one of Bier's greatest legacies, the Sauen forest in Germany. You'll have to listen to find out more!

Dec 11, 2018

In this episode, we'll cover the life of the 18th century English surgeon, Percivall Pott. This includes some of the numerous disorders named after him, and covers the first description of an association between an occupational exposure and cancer, which would lead to significant social change. And of course, we'll take some detours, including covering the origin story of the London Hospital St. Bartholomew's, and more!

Nov 19, 2018

In this episode, we explore the history of Robert Liston, considered "the fastest knife in the west end" of London, in an era before anesthesia. He was also famous for an operation with a 300% mortality rate, and for performing the first operation under ether in Europe. Liston also had many rivals, including a physician that led the charge during the brief and strange history of mesmerism in medicine. 

Nov 1, 2018

In this episode, we'll cover the strange and sometimes disturbing history of psychosurgery, and in particular, the frontal lobotomy. We'll meet the Nobel Prize winning Egas Moniz as well as the physician and self-promoter Walter Freeman. And as a special bonus, we'll briefly cover the history of zombies!

Oct 8, 2018

In this episode, we will follow the history of the treatment of clubfoot, from antiquity, through the Renaissance and into modern surgery. Interestingly, the thinking has swung from conservative treatment, through a number of mechanical solutions, through surgical solutions, and finally come back to a non-invasive approach. As usual, we will meet some interesting characters, and in particular, cover some of the luminaries in the development of the specialty of orthopaedics!

Sep 25, 2018

In this episode, we will take a look at some of the unsung heroes of the operating room, going back to some of the earliest surgeries. We'll meet some of the interesting roles that developed, including Handlers, Dressers and Surgical Beadles. From there, we'll trace the development of the modern surgical technologist through the 20th century. And of course, we'll take some detours, including meeting the surgeon Frederick Treves, and his famous patient, the Elephant Man!

Sep 10, 2018

In this episode, we will follow the history of the repair of inguinal hernias from ancient times, through the age of dissection, to the Renaissance where we will meet the surgeons that influenced our understanding of the anatomy and pathology of hernias. From there, we will cover the first successful tissue repairs, then move on to the era of mesh repairs, and finally, cover the laparoscopic approach. Of course, we'll take a few tangents and learn some interesting facts about hernias!

Aug 3, 2018

In this episode, we explore the life of the English surgeon, Sir Astley Cooper, as well as some of his most notable accomplishments. Along the way, we'll cover the infamous story of his nephew, Bransby Cooper, which intersects the beginnings of the medical journal The Lancet, and represents one of the first medico-legal trials on record. Some of our detours will take us to the first carotid artery ligation, done by a naval surgeon while at sea, as well as introducing us to the pioneering vascular surgeon, Rudolph Matas. All that and more in this longer than usual episode!

Jun 11, 2018

In this episode, we will explore the introduction of Western style surgery into feudal Japan, during the period of isolation, that lasted from 1639 to 1853. During this time, only a few of the European powers had access to Japan, and for most of that time, it was Holland alone. The Dutch, through trade by the Dutch East Indies Company, held a monopoly on trade with Japan, and came to greatly influence their practice of surgery. Along the way, we'll meet some of these surgeons, as well as a Japanese surgeon who was able to perform major surgery on patients while they slept, a breakthrough that beat the events of the Ether Dome by more than 40 years!

May 30, 2018

Patients are often placed in the 'lithotomy' position. But where did this come from? We'll cover the history of the surgical procedure for bladder stones, known as lithotomy, which dates back from the earliest records of surgery right up to the beginnings of modern surgery. A number of different surgical approaches were used, and we'll cover their history, as well as meet some of the surgeons (and lithotomists) that had an impact on these operations.

May 11, 2018

In this episode, we'll cover R Adams Cowley, a surgeon who's single-minded determination reinvented how trauma patients are cared for, and essentially created the field of traumatology. Through his tireless efforts, the state of Maryland created a world-renowned centre for understanding and treating shock in trauma patients. He was an interesting character, to say the least. We will also explore the origins of the concepts of shock as a 'temporary pause in the act of death', and the 'golden hour', the critical window of time to treat shock patients. We'll also review the history of aeromedical evacuation, and of course, some other interesting side stories!

Apr 28, 2018

In this episode, we'll cover the relatively rare but interesting thoracic outlet syndrome, discussing its anatomy and causes, including cervical ribs. Along the way, we'll follow the history of the discovery of the syndrome as well as meet some famous surgeons involved in its treatment. And of course, go off on a few tangents, including the end of woolly mammoths!

Apr 8, 2018

In this episode, we'll cover the life and works of Dr. Friedrich Trendelenburg. Many may know the name from the "Trendelenburg position", but this German surgeon is known for so much more. We'll cover his other contributions, including his attempts to develop a surgical treatment of pulmonary embolism, and much more!

Mar 25, 2018

The heart lung bypass machine replaces the functions of the heart and lungs, allowing surgeons to operate on the heart. Its invention essentially created the specialty of cardiac surgery. Surgeon John Heysham Gibbon Jr. dedicated much of his career to developing this machine. This is that story.

Mar 9, 2018

Cochlear implants are an amazing innovation that have had a huge impact on patients. In this episode, we'll cover the history of their development, and highlight the contributions of one surgeon, Dr. William House. As well, we'll discuss some of the controversies behind the implants, and of course, take a few interesting side roads of history. 

Feb 25, 2018

In this episode, we'll cover the creation of the laser and some of the physics behind it (don't worry, not too much!) and meet the early pioneers of laser development. The story of the first medical lasers will be covered, as well as the more commonly used types and of course, their applications in surgery!

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