Selective joint denervation has become a reliable palliative treatment, especially for painful joints in the upper and lower extremity.Methods
This article highlights the life and work of Nikolaus Rüdinger (1832-1896) who first described joint innervation which became the basis of later techniques of surgical joint denervation. The historical evolution of this method is outlined.Results
Rüdinger made a unique career from apprentice barber to military surgeon and anatomy professor in Munich, Germany. His first description of articular innervation of temporomandibular, shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger, sacroiliac, hip, knee, ankle, foot, and toe joints in 1857 stimulated the subsequent history of surgical joint denervation. Comparing his investigations with modern joint denervation methods, developed by pioneers like Albrecht Wilhelm or A. Lee Dellon, shows his great exactitude and anatomical correspondence despite different current terminology. Clinical series of modern surgical joint denervations reveal success rates of up to 80% with reliable long-term results.Conclusion
The history of joint denervation with Rüdinger as its important protagonist offers inspiring insights into the evolution of surgical techniques and exemplifies the value of descriptive functional anatomy, even if surgical application may not have been realized until a century later.