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Moments in Surgical History
August 2000

Horace Green's Probang

Arch Surg. 2000;135(8):991. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.8.991

THERE HAVE BEEN MANY debates within American surgery that have occasioned stormy and vitriolic discussions. Frequently personal in nature, these episodes provide fodder for the surgical historian and amusement for the reader. One such story concerns Horace Green, considered the father of American laryngology, and his controversial announcement, in 1846, that he was able to pass a sponge-tipped probang, a curved instrument of whalebone 10 inches long, into the larynx and thus apply medication directly to the laryngeal mucosa and even to the trachea. Such a technical achievement had forever been considered an impossibility and Green's detractors lay waiting in ambush.

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