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Moments in Surgical History |

Horace Green's Probang

Ira M. Rutkow, MD, MPH, DrPH
Arch Surg. 2000;135(8):991. doi:10.1001/archsurg.135.8.991.
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THERE HAVE BEEN MANY debates within American surgery that have occasioned stormy and vitriolic discussions. Frequently personal in nature, these episodes provide fodder for the surgical historian and amusement for the reader. One such story concerns Horace Green, considered the father of American laryngology, and his controversial announcement, in 1846, that he was able to pass a sponge-tipped probang, a curved instrument of whalebone 10 inches long, into the larynx and thus apply medication directly to the laryngeal mucosa and even to the trachea. Such a technical achievement had forever been considered an impossibility and Green's detractors lay waiting in ambush.

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Horace Green drew this color plate from life and included it in his Treatise on Diseases of the Air Passages (1846). The figure demonstrates tonsillar pathology and an enlarged uvula, which interfered with the patient's breathing.

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