The Aims of Internal Fixation

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Robert Danis (1880–1962) was a Belgian surgeon whose talents and interests were of such depth and special range that he became one of the most prolific surgical innovators of his time. Following his graduation from the University of Brussels in 1904 he immediately applied himself to the field of thoracic surgery and developed improved techniques for the prevention of surgical pneumothorax. Soon his interests had extended to vascular surgery, he invented an instrument for portocaval anastomosis, improved the techniques available at that time for vascular anastomosis, and worked on the surgical treatment of aneurysms. His thesis, entitled “Anastomoses and Vascular Structures” was published in 1912. This was followed by prize-winning work on regional and general anesthesia and, in particular, on spinal anesthesia. In 1921 he was appointed to the chair of the theory and practice of surgery at the University of Brussels, which was the first of a long series of prestigious appointments and memberships of learned societies both in Belgium and abroad. By 1928 he had, together with Antoine de Page, published the fruits of extensive work on the treatment of cancer of the breast and the authors had evolved a surgical technique which now counts among the classics. Robert Danis also operated on bones and joints and his dissatisfaction with the instruments, implants, and techniques available at that time caused him to devote a large part of his subsequent career to a program of research and development in which he laid the foundations of the internal fixation techniques now widely used in orthopedic and trauma surgery. He conducted extensive investigations on the metallurgical properties of bone implants, and much of this work was summarized in 1932 in his famous publication on the technique of osteosynthesis. His subsequent work on this topic culminated in the appearance in 1949 of the large, richly illustrated volume entitled “Theorie and Practice of Osteosynthese” in which he summarized his vast experience in this field.

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