May 1994

Oddi: The Paradox of the Man and the Sphincter

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn (Dr Modlin); and the Department of Surgery, University of Gothenburg, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden (Dr Ahlman).

Arch Surg. 1994;129(5):549-556. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1994.01420290095014

Ruggero Oddi was born of a modest family in the small town of Perugia, Italy, in 1866. While still a young medical student, he identified the sphincter and in addition characterized its physiological properties. At the early age of 29 years, he was appointed as the director of the Physiological Institute at Genoa, but a dalliance with drugs and fiscal improprieties resulted in his being relieved of this eminent position in Italian Physiology. He subsequently sought employment as a physician in the Belgian colonial medical service and briefly spent time in the Congo. The deterioration of his physical status and his use of Vitaline, a homeopathic preparation, led to the demise of his medical career. For reasons that are unclear, he then traveled to Africa where he died in Tunisia. In the last 50 years, the use of sophisticated methodology has allowed delineation of aspects of the neural and hormonal regulatory mechanisms of the sphincter. Its exact role in disease has not been determined, although its relationship to the putative entity of biliary dyskinesia has been suggested. The paradox of both the sphincter and its original discoverer remain to be resolved.

(Arch Surg. 1994;129:549-556)