Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum. The complexity of the disease gained it the moniker “the great imitator”; it was William Osler who said, “He who knows syphilis, knows medicine.” In 1866, Patrick Watson of Edinburgh, Scotland, reported a case of a 36-year-old man in whom syphilis destroyed the larynx.1 The diagnosis was made postmortem. It was once believed that this was the first reported total laryngectomy, but the credit should actually be given to Christian Albert Theodor Billroth who performed this surgery on a patient with laryngeal carcinoma in 1873.1
Lahav G, Lahav Y, Ciobotaro P, Ziv N, Halperin D. Laryngeal Syphilis: A Case Report. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011;137(3):294–297. doi:10.1001/archoto.2011.16
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