Celebrating the centennial (1894–1994): Leonardo Gigli and his wire saw

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✓ In spite of the recent introduction of craniotomes in neurosurgical practice, the simple but brilliant wire saw invented by Leonardo Gigli still holds an important place in neurosurgical instrumentation. Born in Florence in 1863, Gigli was forced by circumstances to leave Italy soon after getting his medical degree. He first spent 2 years attending the most celebrated obstetrical clinics in Paris and London and then, in 1892, moved to Breslau where he worked with Fritsch and Mikulicz. During this successful and rewarding period, Gigli proposed the lateralized pubiotomy (Gigli's operation) for safe delivery in cases of maternal pelvic deformities and, inspired by the sight of a jagged knife during a country banquet, conceived his wire saw to simplify the procedure. In 1894, at Professor Obalinski's suggestion, he successfully tested a modified saw type with a whalebone guide for the preparation of osteoplastic cranial flaps. In spite of his great popularity and the high esteem in which he was held abroad, Gigli's aims were systematically belittled in Italy, where he never qualified for a university teaching position. He died in 1908, at age 44.

Although the once celebrated Gigli's operation has merely historical interest today, the favorable features of his wire saw make it a safe and efficient tool in the hands of twentieth-century neurosurgeons worldwide.

Article Information

Address reprint requests to: Andrea Brunori, M.D., Division of Neurosurgery, “G.M. Lancisi,” San Camillo Hospital, Circonvallazione Gianicolense 87, 00152 Rome, Italy.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

Headings

Figures

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    Birthday of a surgical instrument: photograph showing the front page of the Zentralblatt für Chirurgie dated May 5, 1894. The opening paper is Gigli's “On a novel instrument to cut the bone, the wire saw.”11

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    A rare portrait of Leonardo Gigli, featuring his signature. Curiously, the reported birthday is wrong (1866 instead of 1863).

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    Photograph showing illustration from Fehling's Operative Obstetrics7 showing the off-midline orientation of cut (Schnittführung) in Gigli's operation, and anatomical landmarks.

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    Drawings showing fundamental steps of lateralized pubiotomy. A saw carrier is guided behind the pubic bone (upper); correct positioning of the wire saw (lower). From Bumm's Comprehensive Treatise of Obstetrics.4

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    Drawings comparing the chain and the wire saw. About the latter, Farabeuf6 states: “… it is thin, flexible in all directions, and cheap. I received two samples from Gigli himself….”

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    Illustrations from Gigli's 1898 paper14 showing the final course of silk threads through burr holes (left) and sawing technique (right). For detailed description, see text.

References

1.

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2.

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3.

Bruno E: Leonardo Gigli (1863–1908). Arch Ital Ginecol 1:1651681908Bruno E: Leonardo Gigli (1863–1908). Arch Ital Ginecol 1:

4.

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6.

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12.

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