SRS Newsletter
September 2012
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Letters to the Editor

Dear Dr. Kalen,

It was nice to see the historical article in the SRS Newsletter, but I have to make some comments:

  1. The names in the photo are translated. Dr. Blount is on the left, sitting, and Dr. Schmidt is standing. I knew them both personally.
  2. You say "bracing was begun for treating scoliosis in the 1950's." Bracing for scoliosis is an ancient art, beginning in the 16th century with Ambrose Pare, the famous French army surgeon. It became highly developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in France and Germany. As seen in the photo of the Hessing brace from Germany circa 1888.

Hessing Brace

Sorry to bother you, but the newsletter should be corrected.


Robert B. Winter, MD

A Letter to the Editor: Additional Historical Information

Dear Dr. Kalen,

I just read the SRS June newsletter containing some mistakes in the Historian Corner, which I think deserve to be corrected.

Turnbuckle cast:
From January 1, 1958 to January 24, 1959, I was the John Cobb Scoliosis Fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. During that time I was responsible for the care of patients on the Scoliosis Wards and had the opportunity to perform myself exactly 60 spine fusions for scoliosis, to assist him on many others and to make several hundreds of turnbuckle casts.

Dr. Cobb was fully active as Chief of the Scoliosis Service. Shortly after I left, his health began to deteriorate and eventually caused his death. This makes me the very last true Cobb scoliosis fellow at Special Surgery. The Cobb type of turnbuckle cast, which included also one thigh, was used to gradually correct the deformity pre-operatively, not as stated in the newsletter. This took from three to six weeks, depending on the magnitude and rigidity of the curves. The patient was then operated through a large posterior window in the cast. Right after wound healing the window was closed by plaster and the patient had to stay in bed for six months. Normal body casts (usually two) followed for a total of 12 months from surgery, with the patient now allowed to walk.

Milwaukee brace:
During the whole month of February 1959, I was visiting Dr. Walter Blount in Milwaukee, being his guest at his distinguished gentlemen’s club, scrubbing in with him at surgery and watching him using the Milwaukee brace. He repeatedly gave the main credit for developing the brace to Dr. Albert Schmidt, whom of course I saw daily. In the photo you showed Dr. Blount is the one sitting down and Dr. Schmidt standing in front of the brace.

With all good wishes,

Alberto Ponte, MD