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Wilhelm von Waldeyer-Hartz—A Great Forefather: His Contributions to Anatomy with Particular Attention to “His” Fascia

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      Wilhelm Waldeyer was, at his time, one of the most well-known authors in the field of Anatomy, Pathology, and Embryology. He held various distinguished academic positions. He was Professor of (Pathological) Anatomy in Breslau, Strasbourg, and Berlin. He remained in Berlin for the unusually long period of 33.5 years, as Full Professor for Anatomy and Director of the Anatomical Institute. His great talent as a teacher ensured that his lectures were always filled to the brim. Between 1862 and 1920, he published 270 works, including classics such as “Das Becken” (The Pelvis). The portrayal of this most important area is counted as one of the most complete which has ever been accomplished in the field of topographic anatomy, it includes the description of the fascia of Waldeyer. He also coined the phrases “chromosome” and “neuron” with their anatomical–morphological concepts. Already during his lifetime, his teaching ability significantly preceded the research capacity. It would, however, be false to overshadow Waldeyer’s merits as a researcher. His main scientific merit is in his excellent summarizing interpretations of current questions of anatomy and evolution, which particularly shows his simultaneous gift as a researcher and a teacher.

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      Most cited references 38

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      Anatomical basis of autonomic nerve-preserving total mesorectal excision for rectal cancer.

      Total mesorectal excision with autonomic nerve preservation for rectal cancer is based on the anatomy of the mesorectum and of the pelvic autonomic nerves. Cadaver dissections were performed to describe the relationship between these structures. Between the rectum and the sacrum a retrorectal space can be developed, lined anteriorly by the visceral leaf and posteriorly by the parietal leaf of the pelvic fascia. The hypogastric nerve runs anterior to the visceral fascia, from the sacral promontory in a laterocaudad direction. The splanchnic sacral nerves originate from the sacral foramina, posterior to the parietal fascia, and run caudad, laterally and anteriorly. After piercing the parietal layer of the pelvic fascia, approximately 4 cm from the midline, the sacral nerves run between a double layer of the visceral part of the pelvic fascia. The relationship between the hypogastric nerves, the splanchnic nerves and the pelvic fascia was comparable in all six specimens examined.
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        Ueber Karyokinese und ihre Beziehungen zu den Befruchtungsvorgängen

         W. Waldeyer (1888)
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          Review of the anatomic concepts in relation to the retrorectal space and endopelvic fascia: Waldeyer's fascia and the rectosacral fascia.

          A precise anatomical study of the fascias within the retrorectal space is reported, analyzing and clarifying the anatomical concepts previously employed to describe Waldeyer's and the rectosacral fascia. The pelvis was dissected in 15 cadavers (10 males and five females). All specimens were divided in the median sagittal plane including the middle axis of the anal canal, to allow a correct visualization of and access to the retrorectal space. The retrorectal space was limited anteriorly by the rectum and posterior mesorectum covered by a fine visceral fascia, and posteriorly by the sacrum covered by the parietal presacral fascia. The rectosacral fascia divided the retrorectal space into inferior and superior portions in 80% of the male and 100% of the female specimens. It originated from the presacral parietal fascia at the level of S2 in 15%, S3 in 38% and S4 in 46% of specimens. In all cases it passed caudally to join the rectal visceral fascia 3-5 cm above the anorectal junction. As described by Waldeyer, the floor of the retrorectal space is formed by the fusion of the presacral parietal fascia and the rectal visceral fascia and lies above the levator ani muscle at the level of the anorectal junction. The rectosacral fascia divides the retrorectal space into inferior and superior portions. This must be differentiated from Waldeyer's description of the fascia lying in the inferior limit of the retrorectal space, formed by the fusion of the rectal visceral and parietal fascias.

            Author and article information

            1Department for General and Visceral Surgery, St. Vincenz Hospital , Paderborn, Germany
            2Pathology Paderborn , Paderborn, Germany
            3Department of Surgery and Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, Vivantes Hospital , Berlin, Germany
            Author notes

            Edited by: Hesham Abdeldayem, National Liver Institute, Egypt

            Reviewed by: Premkumar Balachandran, Apollo Hospitals, India; Clive J. Kelty, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom

            *Correspondence: Ferdinand Köckerling, ferdinand.koeckerling@

            Specialty section: This article was submitted to Visceral Surgery, a section of the journal Frontiers in Surgery

            URI :
            URI :
            Front Surg
            Front Surg
            Front. Surg.
            Frontiers in Surgery
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            04 December 2017
            : 4
            5723023 10.3389/fsurg.2017.00074
            Copyright © 2017 Scheuerlein, Henschke and Köckerling.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Figures: 3, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 39, Pages: 7, Words: 4616


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