June 1996


Arch Surg. 1996;131(6):636. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1996.01430180062011

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Henry Ingersoll Bowditch (1808-1982) served as a staff member of the Massachusetts General hospital from 1838 to 1892. In a series of papers starting in 1852, he pioneered the operation for removal of pleural effusions (paracentesis thoracis) with trocar and suction pump. The technique had first been suggested by Morrill Wyman (1812-1903), a Boston physician and inventor of the pump, but it was most sucessfully employed by Bowditch, who garnered for it the support of the medical profession. By 1863, Bowditch had performed the procedure 150 times on 75 individuals. That year he wrote about the operation, "It cannot cure all... has relieved many, and will continue to do so... It is certainly innocuous and gives so little pain... that patients have begged for it to be repeated again and again.... In my opinion it ought never... be allowed to fall into disuse by the profession."

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