Norman McOmish Dott (1897–1973) developed surgical neurology in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was a scholar of worldwide renown. One of Dott's most notable contributions to neurosurgery was his understanding of hypothalamic physiology, mostly acquired through the comprehensive study of patients with lesions involving this region of the diencephalon, particularly craniopharyngiomas (CPs). Recognition of symptoms caused by hypothalamic disturbances allowed him to predict the accurate anatomical relationships between CPs and the hypothalamus, despite the rudimentary radiological methods available during the 1930s. His sophisticated knowledge permitted Dott to perform radical removals of CPs originating within the third ventricle floor with acceptable success. Between 1934 and 1937, he operated on 4 CP cases originating in the hypothalamus, achieving a satisfactory postoperative outcome in 3 of the 4 patients. Aware of the strong attachment of hypothalamic CPs to the infundibulo-tuberal area, Dott used a double transbasal and transventricular approach to these lesions, a strategy providing an optimal view and control of the tumor boundaries. The decisive mentorship of several legendary figures of physiology and neurosurgery greatly influenced Dott's surgical evolution. The experimental pituitary gland work he performed with Sir Edward Sharpey-Schäfer at the beginning of his career stirred Dott's curiosity about the issue of hypothalamus-pituitary relationships. As a result, he decided to move to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts) in 1923, to train in neurosurgery and neuropathology under the guidance of the leaders in these fields, Harvey Williams Cushing (1869–1939) and Percival Sylvester Bailey (1892–1973). They inspired the young Dott and shared with him their clinical and pathological expertise, in addition to their surgical strategies for best approaching and removing these challenging tumors. In time, Dott would come to surpass his mentors. This paper aims to credit Norman M. Dott for his decisive, modern contributions to hypothalamic CP surgery.
Ruth Prieto and José M. Pascual
Percival S. Bailey (1892–1973) was a scholar, neuroscientist, neuropathologist, and neurosurgeon who made decisive contributions in the field of neuro-oncology. Far less known are his groundbreaking insights into understanding hypothalamic physiology through the study of craniopharyngiomas. As one of Harvey W. Cushing’s most talented trainees, Bailey was instrumental in developing Cushing’s project of a histologically based prognostic classification of brain tumors. He worked at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital on and off between 1919 and 1928, owing to frequent clashes with his mentor. A major cause of this long-term conflict was Bailey’s 1921 experimental demonstration of the hypothalamic origin of diabetes insipidus and Fröhlich’s syndrome. This finding challenged Cushing’s view that both alterations were due to pituitary gland insufficiency. In a seminal monograph written with John F. Fulton in 1929, both authors provided the first comprehensive account of the specific hypothalamic disturbances caused by tumors that originated within the infundibulum and third ventricle. The methodical study of Cushing’s craniopharyngioma specimens allowed Bailey to recognize the close contact between these lesions and hypothalamic nuclei, a key concept that Bailey originally advanced for proper surgical planning. This article aims to credit Bailey for his pioneering definition of craniopharyngiomas as tumors with a true intrahypothalamic position.
José M. Pascual, Ruth Prieto and Paolo Mazzarello
Sir Victor Horsley (1857–1916) is considered to be the pioneer of pituitary surgery. He is known to have performed the first surgical operation on the pituitary gland in 1889, and in 1906 he stated that he had operated on 10 patients with pituitary tumors. He did not publish the details of these procedures nor did he provide evidence of the pathology of the pituitary lesions operated on. Four of the patients underwent surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (Queen Square, London), and the records of those cases were recently retrieved and analyzed by members of the hospital staff. The remaining cases corresponded to private operations whose records were presumably kept in Horsley's personal notebooks, most of which have been lost.
In this paper, the authors have investigated the only scientific monograph providing a complete account of the pituitary surgeries that Horsley performed in his private practice, La Patologia Chirurgica dell'Ipofisi (Surgical Pathology of the Hypophysis), written in 1911 by Giovanni Verga, Italian assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia. They have traced the life and work of this little-known physician who contributed to the preservation of Horsley's legacy in pituitary surgery. Within Verga's pituitary treatise, a full transcription of Horsley's notes is provided for 10 pituitary cases, including the patients' clinical symptoms, surgical techniques employed, intraoperative findings, and the outcome of surgery. The descriptions of the topographical and macroscopic features of two of the lesions correspond unmistakably to the features of craniopharyngiomas, one of the squamous-papillary type and one of the adamantinomatous type. The former lesion was found on necropsy after the patient's sudden death following a temporal osteoplastic craniectomy. Surgical removal of the lesion in the latter case, with the assumed nature of an adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma, was successful. According to the evidence provided in Giovanni Verga's monograph, it can be claimed that Sir Victor Horsley was not only the pioneer of pituitary gland surgery but also the pioneer of craniopharyngioma surgery.