I have a slew of exams lined up and am recovering from a (suspected) repetitive stress injury of the right wrist. Combined, they have managed to keep me offline long enough to stay off the blog. But since yesterday my wrist has been feeling a little more supple and hence, this post. Not much of a post, more like… musings.
So as any medical student will tell you, there are some names which haunt us in our nightmares. Kocher. Koch. (Not for the reasons you are thinking, dirty minds). Trendelenburg. No doubt they have had an immense impact on clinical medicine but when you get grilled on Trendelenburg’s SIGN and Trendelenburg’s gait and Trendelenburg’s operation, the trend is to start hating the dude.
It gets way worse with Kocher.
So anyways. I was solving a few papers and I came across two versions of the spellings: TrendelenbUrg and TrendelenbErg. Now since these guide books are plagued by misspelling and typos, I did not put much stress on this. Instead, I decided to move on. As I was about to log off today, I decided to give it a shot and find out what actually the deal is with the spelling of the name and I came across this paper:
Imagine my surprise to find that someone had even asked THIS question before me!
Anyways. So, in this article, I come across the fact that:
The words used in my search were Trendelenburg, and (an incorrect variant) Trendelenberg. Trendelenburg yielded 902 publications; only 558 referred directly or eponymously to Friedrich Trendelenburg, the remainder referring to other Trendelenburgs or their work. The missspelt Trendelenberg yielded 39 articles (36 new), all referring to the eponymous Trendelenburg. Three publications appeared on both searches—each paper containing both correct and incorrect spellings in either title and abstract, or abstract alone. Therefore, the minimum miss-rate (assuming no other incorrect and non-overlapping variant spellings) for Trendelenburg is 6% (36 of 594).
So for once, the guide books are not guilty of a unique error!
The funny thing is that the great Friedrich Trendelenburg himself recognized the problem with his name:
As Trendelenburg himself noted, his “long and exotic name always, of course, presented difficulties. At one party the maid called out loudly, ‘Mr Trembling Heart’” (2)
Anyways. As Huntley notes in this article, even the BMJ Minerva has slipped up on one occasion, so we can let our PGMEE Guidebooks get the benefit of the doubt as well.
The interesting thing is that maybe the misspelling may cause us to miss out on finding the proper papers and references when we search for: trendelenburg[tiab] on PubMed. Anyways. This reminds me of the number of achievements of Friedrich Trendelenburg makes him a rather awesome candidate to follow up in my series on medical history. Maybe next week, after the exams, I will proceed to write about Friedrich Trendelenburg. You might want to check out the previous installments on: Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Argyll Robertson, Charles Beevor, John Hunter, Nikolay Pirogov, Daniel Alcides Carrion, Shubhash Mukherjee.
1. HUNTLEY, J. (2003). Trendelenburg and not Trendelenberg The Lancet, 362 (9378), 174-174 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(03)13883-4
2. Trendelenburg FA. From my joyful days of youth, a memoir. Cairo: Al-Ahram Publishing House, 1924.
Categories: History of Medicine