- Lawson Tait
name = Lawson Tait
caption = Lawson Tait
May 1, 1845
June 13 1899
work_institutions = Birmingham Womens Hospital
Lawson Tait, born Robert Lawson Tait (
May 1, 1845— June 13, 1899) in Edinburgh, Scotland, became a pioneer in pelvic and abdominal surgeryand developed new techniques and procedures. He emphasized asepsisand reduced surgical mortality significantly. He is well known for introducing salpingectomyin 1883 as the treatment for ectopic pregnancy, a procedure that has saved countless lives since then. Tait and J. Marion Simsare considered the fathers of gynecology.
Reducing surgical mortality
Tait's first success came with his demonstration that ovariotomy could be done safely. While
Ephraim McDowellhad successfully performed the first ovariotomyin Kentuckyin 1809, mortality for this operation was over 90%. In his first paper in 1872, Tait reported only 1 death out of nine cases, a major breakthrough. His techniques of use of intraabdominal ligatures for the ovarian pedicle in favor of an extraperitoneal clamp, abdominal closure, and meticulous surgical cleanliness were novel and important for abdominal surgery. With further recognition, he was instrumental in the opening of the BirminghamHospital for Women where he worked for 20 years.
During this time, his work included:
# First removal of an organ (
ovary) for pain.
# Observation of association of cystic ovaries and excessive menstrual bleeding.
# Induction of surgical
menopauseby removal of ovaries.
# Removal of infected tubes.
# Drainage of
# First cholecystotomy (
Asepsisin lieu of Lister's antisepsis; he avoided the use of carbolic acid.
# Flushing of peritoneal cavity at end of operation.
In 1881, it was suggested to him to remove the ruptured tube in case of an ectopic pregnancy. "... the suggestion staggered me, and I am ashamed to say that I did not receive it favorably." The postmortem examination convinced him that it could be done. So, 2 years later, Tait ligated the
broad ligamentand tube in another patient, and this patient survived. In 1888, Tait reported only 2 deaths out of 42 operated cases, a marked improvement for a condition that had been almost always fatal.
Tait was a strong opponent to animal experimentation. His comment: " ...after we have found out what (experimental drugs) do in one animal we find that in another the results are wholly different and the process of investigation has to be repeated in man."
Tait was well recognized during his time, a founder and member of professional societies, and published extensively. He died of kidney failure.
The [http://medsoc.bham.ac.uk/lawsontait/ Lawson Tait Society] , an undergraduate history of medicine society at the
University of Birmingham Medical School, is named in honour of Tait. They have embarked upon a project of digitising Tait's work and resources related to Tait.
* Golditch IM: Lawson Tait: The forgotten gynecologist. Obstet Gynecol 2002;99:152-156.
title=Lawson Tait and opposition to germ theory: defining science in surgical practice.
periodical=Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences
title=The contribution of Robert Lawson Tait to the development of abdominal surgery.
publication-date=1974 Mar 1
title=Classic pages in obstetrics and gynecology. Robert Lawson Tait. General summary of conclusions from one thousand cases of abdominal section.
periodical=Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol.
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