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Article of the Month: International Orthopaedics Journal

History of external fixation for treatment of fractures

Philippe Hernigou


Surgery in the first half of the nineteenth century was primarily dominated by pain and fear of lethal infections. Therefore, the absolute majority of fractures and dislocations were treated non-operatively. Development of operative treatment of fractures was influenced by three major inventions: anaesthesia (1846), antisepsis (1865) and X-rays (1895). The first to use external fixation is traditionally considered to be Malgaigne (1843). However, his devices cannot be really considered as external fixation. The external fixation device invented by Lambotte in 1902 is generally thought to be the first “real fixator”. In America it was Clayton Parkhill, in 1897, with his “bone clamp” who started the process. Both Parkhill and Lambotte observed that metal pins inserted into bone were tolerated extremely well by the body. Mainly on the basis of their research findings, many external fixation devices have been and are being developed.


DOI 10.1007/s00264-016-3324-y