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World J Surg. 2001 Aug;25(8):1012-20.

Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch: rise and fall of the pioneer of thoracic surgery.

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Surgical Professorial Unit, Level 17, O'Brien Building, St. Vincent's Hospital, Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales 2010, Australia.


Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1875-1951) was a pioneer of thoracic and cardiac surgery and is undoubtedly one of the twentieth century's most outstanding surgeons. Before 1904 operations on the thorax met with fatal complications due to pneumothorax. Sauerbruch developed a pressure-differential chamber that maintained normal respiration and enabled safe operations to be undertaken on the thorax. Together with von Mikulicz, he initiated intrathoracic operations and later developed various surgical procedures on the mediastinum, lungs, pericardium, heart, and esophagus. The simple yet effective techniques of positive-pressure ventilation replaced the expensive, cumbersome negative-pressure chamber. Sauerbruch's latter years were marred by dementia that adversely affected his personality, intellect, and capacity as a surgeon. The unjustifiable toll of increasing patient morbidity and mortality forced authorities to dismiss him in 1949. He died at the age of 76 in Berlin. After almost a century since the advent of the first safe thoracic surgery, the advances in technique and technology have been enormous. A great deal is owed to the inspiration and contributions of Ferdinand Sauerbruch.

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