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Legends of Surgery

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This podcast takes an entertaining and informative approach to telling the stories of the people and events that make up the history of modern surgery.

This podcast takes an entertaining and informative approach to telling the stories of the people and events that make up the history of modern surgery.
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This podcast takes an entertaining and informative approach to telling the stories of the people and events that make up the history of modern surgery.




Episode 72 - The History of Clubfoot

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!


Episode 71 - The History of Surgical Technologists

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!


Episode 70 - The History of Inguinal Hernias

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!


Episode 69 - Sir Astley Cooper

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...


Episode 68 - The History of Surgery in Japan

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...


Episode 67 - The History of Lithotomy

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.


Episode 66 - R Adams Cowley: Father of Trauma Medicine

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...


Episode 65 - Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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!


Episode 64 - Dr. Friedrich Trendelenburg

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!


Episode 63 - The Heart Lung Bypass Machine

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.


Episode 62 - Cochlear Implants

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.


Episode 61 - Lasers in Surgery

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!


Episode 60 - Better know an instrument: Metzenbaum scissors

In this episode, we'll cover the life and times of the surgeon for whom "Metz" are named for, Dr. Myron Firth Metzenbaum. We'll look at his work with radium (including some amazing background history on it), the ambulance service in Cleveland, and of course, his instrument. Dr. Metzenbaum also developed an operation and helped found the American Board of Plastic Surgery! Find out all the details in this episode.


Episode 59 - The History of the Railway Surgeon

In this episode, we will cover the brief but fascinating history of that often-overlooked specialty in the development of modern surgery, the railway surgeon. The birth, rise, and eventual demise of this particular area of practice will be explored, looking at the different roles they played, and how they influenced modern trauma surgery. And of course, we will meet a few interesting characters along the way!


Episode 58 - The Story of the Appendix

In this episode, we will cover the history of the appendix, from its first description, to its (recently) described function and cover what happens when things go wrong. This includes the first recorded appendectomy, the first definitive description of appendicitis as a separate entity and some of the early surgeons who pioneered operative treatment. Finally, we'll talk about current and possible future management of appendicitis.


Episode 57 - the history of Microsurgery

In this episode, we will explore the history of the development of the microscope and discuss its use in the operating room. From the very first use, to the pioneers that experimented on attaching tiny blood vessels, to modern uses, including the history of hand and face transplants will be covered!


Episode 56 - William Ladd:Father of Paediatric Surgery

In this episode, we'll cover the surgeon often referred to as the father of paediatric surgery, Dr. William Edwards Ladd. He has a famous connection to the Halifax Explosion, a tragic accident that occurred almost exactly 100 years ago. We'll explore that connection, and cover Ladd's work in developing the field of paediatric surgery, as well as review the eponymously named Ladd's bands and Ladd's procedure.


Episode 55 - Better know a procedure: the Whipple operation

In this episode, we will cover the pancreatic surgery commonly known as the Whipple procedure and learn about the life and works of Dr. Allen Oldfather Whipple, the first to successfully attempt the procedure as a single-step operation. As well, we'll describe Whipple's triad, and as always, cover some other interesting medical trivia.


Episode 54 - Better know an instrument: the Surgical Stapler

This episode will cover the long history of the development of the surgical stapler, an instrument not often considered in surgical history. Our journey will take us from ancient Rome, to medieval Spain, Hungary, the Soviet Union and finally the US. During our exploration, we will discuss the career of surgeon Dr. Mark Ravitch, the person most responsible for bringing stapling technology out of Russia and introducing it to Western surgical practice.


Episode 53 - Creepy Crawlers in Surgery: Halloween Edition

In this episode, we'll take a bit of a different approach to the history of surgery, and look at some of the insects and other creepy crawlers that have been used to assist in treating patients. We'll cover the use of leeches and maggots in surgery, both in ancient times and in modern practice, as well as some other less well known creatures that have been utilized in fascinating ways. Lots of interesting material to cover!