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Friedrich Trendelenburg (1844-1924)

Friedrich Trendelenburg was born in Berlin in 1844. After undertaking his early schooling in Germany, he had the rather unusual experience of pursuing his initial medical studies in Glasgow.  He then reFriedrich Trendelenbergturned to Germany to complete his MD in Berlin in 1866.  After two years in the German army, he worked from 1868 to 1874 as the assistant to Professor Langenbeck also in Berlin. On completion of his training, he was appointed as director of the surgical ward at the Friedrichshain Hospital.  He subsequently moved cities on three occasions to become Professor of Surgery in Rostock, Bonn and finally Leipzig in 1895. Trendelenburg played a key role in the great advances in surgery that occurred in Germany in the latter part of the nineteenth century. He founded the German Society of Surgeons and eventually became it president. He published extensively in the fields of plastic and vascular surgery and on congenital dislocation of the hip. In 1871 he described endotracheal anaesthesia for a patient with a tracheostomy. In 1890 he reported ligation of the long saphenous vein for the treatment of varicose veins. In 1908 he was the first surgeon to attempt, albeit unsuccessfully, a pulmonary embolectomy.

Trendelenburg' s name is associated with two clinical signs. The first, described in 1890, identified saphenofemoral incompetence in patients with varicose veins. The second, described in 1895, confirms shortening of the leg due to an ununited fracture of the femur or dislocation of the hip joint. The operative position named after Trendelenburg consists of placing the patient in a 45 degree 'head down' inclination, useful in reducing the venous pressure for varicose vein surgery or to maintain the intestine out of the pelvis for gynaecological procedures. The position was first described by Willy Meyer who had been a student under Trendelenburg at Bonn in 1881.

Trendelenburg was a great practical surgeon who was keenly interested in the history of surgery. His doctoral thesis 'De Veterum Indorum Chirurgiais' discussed ancient Indian surgery. The closing years of his life were spent in Nikolassea, Germany. He died form carcinoma of the lower jaw at the age of 81 years.
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