Dr. Arnold Max Meirowsky (1910–1984) was enormously influential to military neurosurgery during the Korean War, introducing to the American military the concept of the mobile neurosurgical unit. After implementation of the neurosurgical detachment, meningocerebral infections saw a decrease from 41% to less than 1%, with similar improvements in mortality and complication rates. Additionally, Meirowsky developed many techniques and improvements in neurosurgery, specifically in the field of neurosurgical trauma, which he dedicated himself to even after reentering civilian practice. Furthermore, his mentorship of Korean surgeons and the influence of his mobile neurosurgical unit were major influences cited to be pivotal to the founding of neurosurgery as a specialty in South Korea. As he is underrecognized for these accomplishments in the neurosurgical literature, the authors seek to review his wartime and career contributions. They also specifically present details of his standardization of the mobile neurosurgical unit and showcase several of his other advancements in the treatment of neurosurgical trauma.
Andy Y. Wang, Wenya Linda Bi, Patrick D. Kelly, Paul Klimo Jr., and Ron I. Riesenburger
Harjus Birk, Caleb Stewart, and Jennifer A. Kosty
Dr. Harvey Cushing is considered the father of modern neurological surgery, and his role and efforts in World War I continue to have a lasting effect on today’s practice of neurosurgery. During World War I, he embodied the tenets of a neurosurgeon-scientist: he created and implemented novel antiseptic techniques to decrease infection rates after craniotomies, leading him often to be referred to as “originator of brain wound care.” His contributions did not come without struggles, however. He faced criticism for numerous military censorship violations, and he developed a severe peripheral neuropathy during the war. However, he continued to stress the importance of patient care and his surgical prowess was evident. In this paper, the authors summarize Cushing’s notes published in From a Surgeon’s Journal, 1915-1918 and discuss the impact of his experiences on his own practice and the field of neurosurgery.
Charlie N. Nelson, Gregory Glauser, Remi A. Kessler, and Megan M. Jack
Causalgia, officially known as complex regional pain syndrome type II, is a pain syndrome characterized by severe burning pain, motor and sensory dysfunction, and changes in skin color and temperature sensation distal to an injured peripheral nerve. The pain syndrome primarily tends to affect combat soldiers after they sustain wartime injuries from blasts and gunshots. Here, the authors provide a historical narrative that showcases the critical contributions of military physicians to our understanding of causalgia and to the field of peripheral nerve neurosurgery as a whole.
T. Glenn Pait and Matthew Helton
President Lincoln appointed General Joseph Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac in January 1863. In April 1863, Hooker had 130,000 men compared to the Confederate Army’s 60,000. The Union forces had more food, clothing, and ammunition. On a decisive day of the Chancellorsville campaign, as Hooker stood on his headquarters porch, a cannonball struck the pillar against which he was leaning. He was hurled to the floor, stunned and senseless. Unconsciousness followed a lucid interval, requiring rest, when another cannonball struck near him. Half of the army was not thrust into battle, resulting in retreat, because Hooker was not capable of commanding. Hooker’s army missed the opportune time to attack; the order was never received because Hooker suffered a traumatic brain injury. Under current military protocol, Hooker would not be allowed to return to participation. During this crucial period a reporter stated, “the precious hour passed, while our army was without a head.” The Chancellorsville campaign resulted in Union retreat. Hooker’s disabling traumatic brain injury prevented him from giving orders and changing the battle’s outcome. Had the general not sustained a concussion, the Civil War probably would have ended earlier.
Michael S. Rallo and Gavin P. Dunn
Throughout human history, advancements in medicine have evolved out of periods of war. The carnage of battlefield injuries provided wartime surgeons an unprecedented opportunity to study anatomy, develop novel techniques, and improve systems of care. As a specialty that was established and evolved during the first half of the 20th century, neurological surgery was heavily influenced by the experiences of its founders during the World Wars I and II. Utilizing the published Neurosurgery Tree, the authors conducted an academic genealogical analysis to systematically define the influence of wartime service on neurosurgery’s earliest generations. Through review of the literature and military records, the authors determined that at least 60% of American neurosurgical founders and early leaders served during World Wars I and/or II. Inspired by the call to serve their nation as forces for good, these individuals were heralded as expert clinicians, innovative systems thinkers, and prolific researchers. Importantly, the service of these early leaders helped highlight the viability of neurosurgery as a distinct specialty and provided a framework for early neurosurgical education and expansion. The equipment, techniques, and guidelines that were developed during these wars, such as management of craniocerebral trauma, peripheral nerve repair, and hemostasis, set the foundation for modern neurosurgical practice.
Christiana M. Cornea, Nicole A. Silva, William Sanders Marble, Kristopher Hooten, and Brian Sindelar
During the mid-1900s, military medicine made historical advancements in the diagnosis, stabilization, and treatment of spinal cord injuries (SCIs). In particular, World War II was an inflection point for clinical practice related to SCIs because of the vast number of devastating injuries to soldiers seen during World War I (WWI). The unprecedented rate of SCI along with growth in the field served as a catalyst for surgical and interdisciplinary advancements through the increased exposure to this challenging pathology. Initially, a tragic fate was assumed for soldiers with SCIs in WWI resulting in a very conservative approach strategy given a multitude of factors. However, soldiers with similar injuries 20 years later saw improved outcomes with more aggressive management interventions by specialists in spine trauma, who applied measures such as spinal traction, arthrodesis, and internal fixation, and with the significant developments in the complex rehabilitation of these patients. This article describes the historical shift in the management of SCIs through the two world wars. These historical lessons of SCI and the fundamental advances in their neurosurgical intervention have molded not only military but also modern civilian treatment of SCI.
Maria Sole Venanzi, Gianluca Piatelli, and Marco Pavanello
Henry Shrapnel invented an antipersonnel weapon capable of defragmenting with the explosion of charge. Modern grenades or improvised explosive devices may be seen as an evolution of Shrapnel’s ammunition. Starting by analyzing the ballistics of these weapons, it is possible to understand the historical evolution of the management of skull fractures and penetrating brain injuries (PBIs).
A circular crack line with a splinter at the center, depressed in bone, was a characteristic feature of fractures due to Shrapnel’s bullet. Three longitudinal fissures, one medial and two lateral, may be present due to tangential blows. Craniectomy and/or fracture reduction were almost always necessary in these cases.
The first document describing medical examination and therapeutic strategies for head-injured patients dates back to 1600 bc (the Edwin Smith Papyrus). Several doctors from the past century, such as Puppe, Matson, and Cushing, proposed different theories about skull fractures and the management of craniocerebral injuries, paving the way for diagnosing and treating these injuries.
Shrapnel fractures required wider craniotomies and in the past surgeons had to deal with more severe injuries. Based on past military experiences during what could be called the postshrapnel age, guidelines for the management of PBIs were introduced in 2001. In these guidelines various concepts were reviewed, such as the importance of antibiotics and seizure prevention; included as well were prognostic factors such as hypotension, coagulopathy, respiratory distress, and Glasgow Coma Scale score. Furthermore, they highlight how it has not been possible to reach a common viewpoint on surgical management. Nevertheless, in contrast with the past, it is preferable to be less aggressive regarding retained fragments if there is no intracranial mass effect.
Although military situations were useful in building basic principles for PBI guidelines, civilian PBIs differ noticeably from military ones. Therefore, there is a need to review modern guidelines in order to apply them in every situation.
Yara Alfawares, Caroline Folz, Mark D. Johnson, Charles J. Prestigiacomo, and Laura B. Ngwenya
The benefit of antibiotic irrigation for prophylaxis against wound infections, not only for traumatic cranial injuries but also in elective neurosurgical care, has recently been called into question. Several articles have cast doubt on the utility of topical antibiotics, and recently, bacitracin irrigation was made unavailable in some US markets. The pervasive nature of antibiotic irrigation, considering the lack of evidence supporting its use, led the authors to question when and how neurosurgeons started using antibiotic irrigation in cranial neurosurgery. Through a review of historical literature, they highlight the adoption of antibiotic irrigation as it began in battlefield surgical practice, gradually leading to the modern concept of antibiotic prophylaxis in civilian and military care.
Hana Yokoi, Meaghan McGovern, Thomas Fetherston, Sarah C. Clarke, Vijay M. Ravindra, Kristopher G. Hooten, and Daniel S. Ikeda
Neurosurgery has benefited from innovations as a result of military conflict. The volume and complexity of injuries sustained on the battlefield require medical teams to triage, innovate, and practice beyond their capabilities in order to treat wartime injuries. The neurosurgeons who practiced in the Pacific Command (PACOM) during World War II, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam built upon field operating room knowledge and influenced the logistics of treating battle-injured patients in far-forward environments. Modern-day battles are held on new terrain, and the military neurosurgeon must adapt. War in the PACOM uniquely presented significant obstacles due to geographic isolation, ultimately accelerating the growth and adaptability of military neurosurgery and medical evacuation. The advancements in infrastructure and resource mobilization made during PACOM conflicts continue to inform modern-day practices and provide insight for future conflicts. In this historical article, the authors review the development and evolution of neurosurgical care, forward surgical teams, and mobile field hospitals with surgical capabilities through US conflicts in the PACOM.