Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rene Le Fort, History, and Radiology

My two interests of radiology and history combined during a resident lecture today at lunch. The attending physician, Dr. C, described the research of French army surgeon Rene Le Fort. In the early 20th century, he outlined specific facial fractures. He interest in studying this macabre medicine was allegedly born upon his visit to Notre Dame cathedral.

There, he observed the buttress with the fly, supporting the posterior tower. Rather than use more cement for a sturdier tower, the great architect wanted to install stained glass. His solution was the flying buttress. Le Fort made note of these supports and wanted to find analogous support in the face. And so, with hundreds of cadavers, he used a system to
be able to predict lines of fractures based on direct and indirect stress or collision.

He used hammers, boots, and more, to literally smash the faces of these cadavers. He would then boil the heads for 24 hours so the meat would fall off the bone. He then would study the fracture lines. Another alternative w
as to soak the heads in a dye for 6 months, which would achieve the same purpose. Perhaps in the early 20th century it was costly to boil water for 24 straight hours.

Because of his observations and manuscripts, radiologists today report Le Fort fractures in their dictations. There are currently three Le Fort fractures, with the third being most severe as it consists of a complete separation of the face from the skull.

History and medicine.

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