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Perspectives
October 2001

Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545-1599)Renaissance Surgeon

Author Affiliations

Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Beth Israel Medical Center
10 Union Sq E
New York, NY 10003

 

Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
 Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
 Beth Israel Medical Center
 10 Union Sq E
 New York, NY 10003


Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2001;3(4):283-284. doi:

THE RENAISSANCE or "rebirth" marked a transition in civilization that emerged from Italy in the 14th century and reached its height during the 15th and 16th centuries. The foundation of modern anatomical studies was laid, and anatomy changed from a Galenic to a Vesalian discipline. It was with this impetus that the first and perhaps one of the greatest textbooks of plastic surgery was written.

The first book exclusively devoted to plastic surgery, and particularly nasal reconstruction, was written by Gaspare Tagliacozzi (1545-1599) of Bologna, Italy, in the late 16th century (Figure 1). Before the Renaissance, methods of repairing the nose damaged in duels, or other forms of combat, were maintained as proprietary secrets by families of barber surgeons. Although Celsus and other earlier writers had discussed aspects of plastic surgical operations, Tagliacozzi was the first to establish their scientific validity and to improve techniques in light of the best medical knowledge of the day. Tagliacozzi's skill was renowned throughout Europe, and his treatise De Curtorum Chirurgia per insitionem, published in 1597, summarized his life's work. In the De Curtorum, Tagliacozzi describes the first delayed flap for nasal reconstruction (Figure 2). Specifically, he details the theory behind the procedure, depicts instrumentation, and describes progressive steps for the operation as well as postoperative bandaging and care. In discussing the technique of preparing the arm flap for reconstruction of the nose he stated, "It is not well to implant the flap in its stage of infancyt. . . but when it has reached the age of manhood and has entirely hardened, and now begins to be turned, strong enough and fortified to sustain the force of the operation. . . . "1 We know that Tagliacozzi obtained excellent results for his time, particularly during a period in which there might have been social or religious prohibitions against surgically altering the appearance of the body.

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