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      Hermann Boerhaave and Lithotomy: What He Thought about It

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          Hermann Boerhaave (1668–1738) was one of the most important figures in 18th-century medicine. With his particular contribution surgery began its transition to a real clinical medical activity becoming increasingly based on linking symptoms with the knowledge of anatomopathological transformations. Lithiasis of the urinary tract was a very common disease throughout Europe. During the early 18th century the surgical approaches for lithotomy to treat lithiasis had very high risks of complications. In the face of the very common and dangerous complications, the doctors and surgeons actively sought all possible solutions short of surgery, and left lithotomy as the last alternative. Boerhaave dedicated a chapter in his ‘Institutiones medicae’ to the treatment of lithiasis of the urinary tract. His recommendations included an increase in liquid intake, a hot bath in order to induce vasodilation, and exercise. Using these methods, Boerhaave felt that stone removal should be achieved, and perhaps reflecting both the status of surgery in the early 18th century and an appreciation of the risks of the surgical procedures available. Boerhaave’s opinion of lithomy as a last resort when other approaches failed was, ‘I think lithotomy is an act of pure faith’.

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          Author and article information

          Am J Nephrol
          American Journal of Nephrology
          S. Karger AG
          July 2002
          27 June 2002
          : 22
          : 2-3
          : 290-294
          aDepartment of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Division of Nephrology, and bDepartment of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Clinica Medica 4, University of Padua, Italy
          63776 Am J Nephrol 2002;22:290–294
          © 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel

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          Page count
          Figures: 8, References: 5, Pages: 5
          Self URI (application/pdf):
          Therapeutics of Kidney Diseases

          Cardiovascular Medicine, Nephrology

          Institutiones medicae, Lithotomy, Hermann Boerhaave


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