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Zentralbl Chir. 1999;124(11):1059-66.

[History of surgical instruments. 9. Surgical instruments and development of surgical technique of lithotomy incision].

[Article in German]

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Klinik für Allgemein- und Gefässchirurgie, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/M.


Lithotomy, i.e. the surgical method of cutting for stone in the bladder, belongs to the oldest and, due to the high risk, most notorious operating techniques. Records of stone-cuttings date as far back as Ancient Greece. The first detailed description of the procedure and instrumentation of lithotomy is to be found by Celsus (1. century AD). The patient in the lithotomy position, the neck of the bladder is approached by a median incision of the perineum. Celsus is also the first to mention special stone-hooking instruments ("uncus") to aid in extracting the bladder-stones. Medico-historical development lead to constant changes in the technique as well as in the instrumentation, since the lack of analgesia and anaesthesia necessitated quick operations of only a few minutes. A key step in the progress of operation was the introduction of so-called path-finders and directing probes in the 16th century. The opening of the bladder from the perineal incision was now accompanied by the simultaneous admission of a metal catheter into the bladder via urethra, thus providing the "Lithotomist", through manual control of the catheter, with an enhanced orientation towards the position of urethra and bladder. At that time, the dissection was conducted bluntly and without direct view of the situation, i.e. without an exact representation of the structures to be separated. Thanks to the improved instrumentation, the instruments could now be guided along a probe directly into the bladder, thus alleviating the tedious search for the opening after changing instruments, all the while with an agitated, pressing patient. Famous names in the development of the lithotomy with an perineal incision are the medical doctor Mariano Santo (around 1488-1564), the barber-surgeon Frère Jacques de Beaulieu (1651-1719) and later Johann Jakob Rau M.D. (1668-1719). Only later, to avoid injury to the perineum, the suprasymphyseal approach ("Sectio alta") was adopted (primarily by Pierre Franco 1556). Due to the construction of arrow-like probe by the barber-surgeon Frère Come (Jean Baseilhac [1703-1781]), which was pushed through the urethra into the bladder and up and above the symphysis, the danger of damaging or penetrating the peritoneum was greatly reduced. In the 19th century the upper lithotomy prevailed as the standard operating method over the perineal approach, known even by the ancient Greeks, but marked by its high complication rate. Since the end of the 19th century, however, the upper lithotomy in ist turn, has been nearly completely replaced by the cystoscopic transurethral lithotripsy.

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