Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, Ahead of Print.
Every day, spine surgeons call for instruments named after surgical pioneers. Few know the designers or the histories behind their instruments. In this paper the authors provide a historical perspective on the Penfield dissector, Leksell rongeur, Hibbs retractor, Woodson elevator, Kerrison rongeur, McCulloch retractor, Caspar pin retractor system, and Cloward handheld retractor, and a biographical review of their inventors. Historical data were obtained by searching the HathiTrust Digital Library, PubMed, Google Scholar, Google Books, and Google, and personal communications with relatives, colleagues, and foundations of the surgeon-designers. The authors found that the Penfield dissectors filled a need for delicate tools for manipulating the brain and that the Leksell rongeur increased surgical efficiency during war-related laminectomies. Hibbs’ retractor facilitated his spine fusion technique. Woodson was both a dentist and a physician whose instrument was adopted by spine surgeons. Kerrison rongeurs were developed in otology to decompress bone near the facial nerve. The McCulloch, Caspar, and Cloward retractors helped improve exposure during the emergence of new techniques, i.e., microdiscectomy and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The histories behind these eponymous instruments remind us that innovation sometimes begins in other specialties and demonstrate the role of innovation in improving patient care.