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Moments in Surgical History
June 2001

A Shoulder Amputation In 1813

Arch Surg. 2001;136(6):711. doi:10.1001/archsurg.136.6.711

ONE OF EARLY America's most amazing surgical spectaculars was a shoulder amputation reported by William C. Bowen (1785-1815) of Providence, RI, in the New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery (October 1814). The facts, according to the author's report, were quite simple. In January and again in April 1813, Bowen was consulted by Peter Carpenter, a farmer residing in Rehoboth, Mass, for a disabling and rapidly progressing enlargement of his right arm. Convinced that the disease was a fungus haematodes (an obsolete term denoting a soft, fungating, easily bleeding malignant tumor), Bowen, in consultation with his uncle Pardon Bowen (1757-1826), a respected physician from Providence, recommended amputation at the shoulder joint.

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