The Liver: Impossible Salvations

  • Thomas S. HellingEmail author
  • Daniel Azoulay


Outside Hamburg Germany on a summer day in 1835 a 10 year old boy was playing in the garden with an open knife in his right pants pocket. As young boys will do, he was in a hurry, stooped, perhaps to tie a shoe, and lost his balance, falling to his knees and then, awkwardly, flat on his stomach. The knife did not flatten with the fall but penetrated his abdomen, obliquely from his naval into the right upper quadrant. He saw the blood, panicked, and ran home. When first examined he had a sizeable bleeding wound on the right side, with a strange, bloody piece of tissue hanging out of the opening. The knife was intact and was removed. Taken to a local surgeon, the boy was wrapped in a compressive bandage but advised to go to the Allgemeinen Krankenhaus—the large general hospital—in Hamburg. There he was examined by Doctor Fricke and his team. Fricke described a peculiar reddish structure that lay poking through the wound on a stalk-shaped attachment covered with a bloody coagulum. It was clear to all that this was a piece of the boy’s liver that had been divided by the knife blade. The hanging piece of liver was carefully excised and the stalk was treated with “anti-inflammatory” ointments and salves. The fortunate lad recovered quickly and was restored to full health within a few weeks. Years later, with the death of the, now, adult man, an autopsy in fact did reveal that the sliced piece of tissue had indeed been a portion of the liver [1].


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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Mississippi Medical CenterJacksonUSA
  2. 2.Centre Hépato-BiliaireHôpital Universitaire Paul BrousseVillejuifFrance

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