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Volkmann's contracture

  • Ischaemic muscular contracture due to muscle necrosis and fibrosis with a resultant claw hand.
  • R von Volkmann (1830-1889) was born in Leipzig, the son of A W Volkmann who was a Privatdozent at the time. He entered medical school and graduated from Berlin in 1854 and in 1867 became Professor of Surgery and Director of the Surgical Clinic at Halle where he remained until his retirement. He was a consulting surgeon in the Franco-Prussian War and one of Lister's major champions in Europe. He performed the first excision of carcinoma of the rectum in 1878 and described his contracture in 1881. He devised a splint and spoon which bear his name. He tried to treat tuberculosis in bones and joints by iodine, cod liver oil and diet which heralded attempts at preventive surgery. In 1894 he reported three patients with scrotal cancer who worked with paraffin and tar. He possessed a great literary ability and under the pen name Richard Leander wrote poetry and a book entitled "Dreams by French Firesides" which has a permanent place in German literature. He was one of Lister's most ardent admirers and it was his support which resulted in the early introduction of antiseptic surgery throughout Germany and undoubtedly helped Lister's triumphal tour in 1875.



Last updated: 03 January 2011

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