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Neurosurgery. 1999 Mar;44(3):610-31; discussion 631-2.

Sir Charles Ballance: pioneer British neurological surgeon.

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Department of Surgery, Cook County Hospital and Hektoen Institute for Medical Research and Loyola University-Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois 60612-9985, USA.


Sir Charles A. Ballance (1856-1936) began his medical career at St. Thomas's Hospital the University College, London, England, in 1875, receiving honors in every subject and a gold medal in surgery. Victor Horsley (1857-1916) and Ballance were classmates at the University and in the later 1880s began work together at the Brown Institute and the National Hospital, Queen Square. In addition to important studies on vascular surgery, Ballance was involved in primate work on cerebral localization with lifelong friends Charles Beevor, Charles Sherrington, David Ferrier, and others. In June of 1887, Ballance assisted Horsley at Queen Square in the successful removal of an extramedullary spinal cord tumor. Horsley was about to abandon the operation, but his friend urged the removal of one lamina higher and the tumor was discovered. Ballance, a demonstrator in anatomy, realized the spinal cord segments lay higher in relation to the vertebral bodies than was generally appreciated. Ballance popularized the operation of radical mastoidectomy for advanced middle ear infection (1890), standardized an approach to drain or excise temporal brain abscesses, and was the first to clearly understand the neurological signs of cerebellar abscess (1894). Ballance also devised cranial base approaches to attack infectious thrombophlebitis of the lateral, petrosal, and cavernous sinuses. He was the first to completely remove an acoustic tumor (1894); 18 years later, the patient remained well. Ballance also drained a posterior fossa subdural hematoma (1906) and successfully sectioned the auditory nerve for Meniere's syndrome (1908). Ballance's operative experience with both supra- and infratentorial brain lesions included approximately 400 cases, which are detailed in his 1907 book, Some Points in the Surgery of the Brain and Its Membranes. His two-volume set, Essays on the Surgery of the Temporal Bone (1919), remains a brilliantly written and illustrated classic. Ballance was an expert on nerve regeneration and nerve grafting, and after many years of devoted research, he devised successful operations for facial nerve paralysis. For this and early vascular work, he is often credited as the first English surgeon to reintroduce classical Hunterian methods of experiment into surgery. He was honored as the founder and President of The Society of British Neurological Surgeons in 1926. Perhaps best known as a general and aural surgeon, Ballance was second only to Horsley in reputation as a pioneer British neurological surgeon. Described as a painstakingly slow but delicate and meticulous operator, Ballance made a contribution to neurosurgery and temporal bone surgery that was immense.

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