From pathologist to surgeon: the surgical tools inventions and techniques of Lodovico Brunetti

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Giovanni Magno
Fabio Zampieri
Alberto Zanatta


History of medicine, Medical instruments, Evolution of surgical techniques


Lodovico Brunetti (1813-1899) was the first professor of pathological anatomy at the University of Padua (1855) and the founder of the current Morgagni Museum of Pathological Anatomy.  His interest in the renewal of rachiotomy techniques through the development of new instruments, still in use today, is well known. Brunetti was also famous for his surgical skills and the invention of different tools used during his operations. A medical-historical research of the literature was carried out to deepen our knowledge on evolution of surgical tools and techniques in the late nineteenth century through the work and ideas of Brunetti.

Although he was full professor of Pathological Anatomy, he continued to operate from time to time as a surgeon. Among his surgical procedures, he performed several cystotomies, cataract and rhinoplasty, of which he described in detail the techniques and tools used, paying always particular attention to his current time innovations, for example citing the "Graefe's knife" as an alternative to the keratotome and the "Thompson's screw lithotripter", whose prototype was presented in 1860 for lithotripsy practices.

The University preserves several surgical instruments that matches the ones used by Brunetti, along with the different specimens of the Morgagni Museum, which bear witness to the operations made using these tools. His inventions are also still used today, while his ideas reflected the discoveries and innovations that characterized the late nineteenth century, also questioning old techniques and tools, often no longer functional or unsuitable for new innovative procedure that were arising in that period.

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