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Neurosurg Focus. 2012 Aug;33(2):E12. doi: 10.3171/2012.6.FOCUS12137.

Dr. Otto "Tiger" Freer: inventor and innovator.

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Department of Neurosurgery, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana 71130, USA.


Every neurosurgeon develops his or her own standard approach to common intracranial pathologies in terms of the order in which different stages are performed and which instruments are used to perform individual tasks. The majority of the basic steps in performing a craniotomy are learned through repetition and practice during residency training. Significant amounts of energy are devoted to mastering technical skills and developing an operative rhythm. What often receives little attention is the historical origin of the instruments that make the work possible. The Freer elevator represents a particularly interesting example. To people unfamiliar with the accomplishments of turn-of-the-century laryngologist Otto "Tiger" Freer, it can be assumed that the name of the instrument in one's hand is simply named for what it can do, that is, to "free" the nasal mucosa from the bony and cartilaginous septum during the transsphenoidal approach. The technique this master surgeon spent his life and career perfecting is now repeated almost daily by skull base neurosurgeons approaching pathologies from the inferior frontal lobe to the foramen magnum. In reviewing his life and work, the authors of this paper discovered an interesting creative process that led to the design of the eponymous instrument. Additionally, they discovered important advances toward the development of the transnasal approach and in our understanding of the anterior skull base. They present a historical perspective on the life and accomplishments of Dr. Freer and the ubiquitous surgical instrument that he invented and popularized.

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