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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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Aug 6, 2021

In this bonus suture tale episode, we cover the life and works of the famous Italian surgeon and anatomist Antonio Scarpa. While many are familiar with him from the eponymously named fascia, his contributions to the science of medicine extend well beyond this. Known as a tyrant in life, a number of anatomical structures were removed after his death, including his head, which can still be seen today! And as an extra bonus, the life of his mentor, Giovanni Morgagni is also explored.

Jun 17, 2021

In this episode, we cover the legendary figure of Hua T'o, the best known (and one of the few) surgeons from Ancient China, as well as the state of surgical treatments at the time. The tale of his most famous operation, on the General Guan Yu, is also examined. Finally, the role of culture and religion on the development of anatomical and surgical knowledge in Ancient China is explored. 

May 21, 2021

In this episode, we'll take a look at some of the contributions he made in surgery and anatomy, as well as some of the errors of his that were repeated for centuries before being disproven. We'll also have a look at the history of the first known surgery, trephination (or drilling a hole in the head), the origins of the word 'cancer', and lots more! As well, Suture Tales takes a look at a giant in the history of ENT surgery, Dr. John Conley. And if you stay to the end, there's even some poetry!

Apr 30, 2021

In the 100th episode of Legends of Surgery, we will explore the life of one of medicine and surgery's greatest influences: the Greek physician from Ancient Rome, Claudius Galen. The events of his life will be covered, as well as some of the amazing feats he performed. In the second part of this mini-series, Galen's lasting impact on anatomy and surgery will we outlined. 

This episode also features a Suture Tale, this time on the surgeon and anatomist Carl Toldt, who described the important surgical landmark we now know as the white line of Toldt!

Feb 7, 2021

In this episode, we'll cover the history of transgender medicine, with a focus on the development of the main surgical procedures in gender reassignment surgery, including vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, and metoidioplasty. A number of trailblazing surgeons and patients will be covered, and there is even a suture tale about a strange Victorian practice of clitoridectomy. Listener beware: this episode contains some graphic descriptions of genital surgery. 

Jan 12, 2021

In this episode, we're going to do something a bit different. I've taken a number of shorter but very interesting topics, either that I've come across on my own or have been suggested by listeners, and turned 5 of them into this episode. There's a medication, a maneuver, a procedure, a person, and a device! And if you have an idea for a topic, please let me know, maybe it will be on the next suture tales!

Dec 31, 2020

In this bonus episode, we cover the long and strange history of the bezoar, a stone that forms in the stomachs of some animals (including humans!) We will go back to the earliest recordings of bezoars in medicine, their use as a treatment for poison, particularly in the Islamic medical world, their rise in popularity in Renaissance Europe, and of course, meet a famous surgeon along the way. Please enjoy a little holiday break from the usual fare!

Nov 25, 2020

In this episode, we explore the origins of our understanding of blood and its function, going all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome. We'll discuss the humeral system championed by Galen, and how these concepts were finally corrected with the discovery of the circulatory system. The consumption of blood, a practice dating back to ancient times, will be covered, as well as the first transfusions into humans, including the first truly successful one by Dr. James Blundell. As always, there will be lots of twists and turns, so enjoy!

Oct 16, 2020

This episode was written by a guest contributor, Harvard student Simar Bajaj. In it, we cover some of the anatomy and function of the esophagus, before tracing the history of the earliest attempts at operating on the esophagus (in ancient Egypt!) up to the modern era. We'll meet a number of surgical legends, and explore some related and fun topics, like answering the question, 'can you burp in space'?

Sep 9, 2020

In this episode, we will cover the story of providing fluids and nutrients intravenously, leading up to Dr. Stanley Dudrick and the development of TPN (total parenteral nutrition), including the first patients to receive this groundbreaking therapy. As usual, we will explore a few related topics, including some of the earliest experiments with radioactive materials, and much more!

Aug 3, 2020

The subject for this episode, written and narrated by Dr. David Sigmon, is the great medieval surgeon Guy de Chauliac. His life and works are covered, including the 'Chirurgia Magna', or 'Great Writings on Surgery', but the main focus is his role in fighting the Black Death in Avignon, France, in 1342, and the lessons he learned about the plague that devastated much of Western civilization.

Jul 30, 2020

This episode was written by a guest contributor, Simar Bajaj, a student of the History of Science at Harvard University. In it, we cover the story of the mitral valve, from its earliest descriptions, to the discovery of its function and pathology, and of course, the evolution of the surgical treatment of both stenosis and regurgitation. In addition to meeting the surgeon innovators, we will of course take some detours, looking at how percussion became a part of the physical exam, reviewing the origins of the term hyperkalemia, cover some surgical rivalries, and lots more!

Jul 7, 2020

This episode was written by a guest contributor, Dr. David Warmflash, and covers the history of the use of induced hypothermia in surgery, from its earliest days in Ancient Egypt, through Napoleon-era France, and to the early days of cardiac surgery! We will also explore a more modern application in the setting of trauma, and of course, take a few detours along the way.

Jun 8, 2020

In this episode, we'll cover the brilliant but difficult character of Guillaume Dupuytren, and of course the disease which bears his name. In addition to his life, we'll take a deep dive into the history of Dupuytren's disease, also known as the Viking's disease, the curse of the MacCrimmons, and the Hand of Benediction, among others. There are lots of side stories, too, including a bit of history of the bagpipes!

And 'Suture Tales' makes a return for the 50th anniversary of the Swan-Ganz catheter!

May 18, 2020

In this episode, host Dr. David Sigmon tells the inspirational true story of Dr. Alexander Thomas Augusta, the first African American surgeon in the Northern Army during the American Civil War, the first African American professor of medicine in the US, and civil rights activist. He overcame deeply entrenched racism to practice medicine and helped to establish medical training for African Americans.

Apr 16, 2020

In this episode, we cover the contributions to neurosurgery by Dr. Walter Dandy, including an in depth look at the ventricular system of the brain. We'll also discuss missing skulls, Roman aqueducts, and the origin of the baseball helmet, and much more!

Feb 26, 2020

In this episode, we will trace the history of the parathyroid gland, from its identification, to the determination of its function, the understanding of hyperparathyroidism, and of course, the surgical removal of abnormal glands! Along the way we'll meet a Swedish medical student, a rhinoceros, a sea captain, and of course, a number of legends of surgery. 

In the suture tales section, we'll cover the assassination of a famous political figure in the US, and the botched attempts to save his life. Lots of fun and interesting stuff in this episode!

Feb 9, 2020

In this 2nd part of a 2-part series on the world-famous cardiac surgeons Drs. DeBakey and Cooley, we cover their life's work, their feud, and eventual reconciliation. In addition, the history of artificial hearts is covered, as well as other topics, including the reason for Jehovah's Witnesses refusing blood transfusions. And in the latest Suture Tales, the Vineberg procedure is brought out of the dustbin of history, given a shake, and covered in detail!

Jan 11, 2020

In this episode, Dr. David Sigmon tells us the tale of the Russian surgeon Dr. Pirogov, detailing his early life, including family tragedies that would shape him, his medical and surgical training, as well as his numerous contributions to surgery. Not only did he advocate for anatomy teaching, leading to the publication of an anatomical atlas 'Anatomia Topographia', he made contributions to vascular surgery and was an early adopter of ether for anesthesia. But most importantly, Pirogov brought his skills and knowledge to the battlefields of 19th century Russia, writing the seminal manual 'Principles of War Surgery' and introducing the concept of triage!

As well, this episode contains the latest 'suture tales', covering the history of curare from the jungles of South America to the modern operating room!

Dec 11, 2019

In this episode, we cover the early lives and career beginnings of the famous cardiovascular surgeons Drs. Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley, up to their joining Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Of course, we will take a number of side roads on the journey to cover some interesting related history. As well, this episode introduces the new segment, "Suture Tails", where we cover a topic suggested by listeners. So please send in your ideas!

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.

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