Battling blood loss in neurosurgery: Harvey Cushing's embrace of electrosurgery

Jennifer R. Voorhees, Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol, Edward R. Laws, Dennis D. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

30 Scopus citations


For his pioneering spirit, definitive work, and unparalleled devotion to conquering neurosurgery's toughest obstacles, Harvey Williams Cushing inarguably has earned the title, "The Father of Neurosurgery." His revolutionary incorporation of electrosurgical techniques in neurosurgery was not exceptional, but part of a pattern of recognizing, embracing, and establishing the use of medical technologies with great potential. Until 1910, Cushing had systematically reduced neurosurgery's primary complications - infection and the effects of intracranial pressure - to decrease mortality rates. Hemostasis had always been a concern of William Halsted's surgical protégé, but only after 1910 could Cushing primarily focus on it. In fact, Cushing's crucial collaboration with William T. Bovie and his electrosurgical apparatus conquered this major obstacle in 1926. The nature of their collaboration - two experts in their respective fields who were passionate about their work, working side by side in the operating room - resulted in progress that surpassed all predecessors in the field. Cushing never did learn the physics behind one of the most important advances of his career. Nonetheless, he did know that by greatly reducing blood loss, electrosurgery allowed him to operate in patients whose tumors had been previously deemed inoperable and on the entire spectrum of neurosurgical patients more safely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-752
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood loss
  • Electrosurgery
  • Harvey Cushing
  • Neurosurgical history
  • William T. Bovie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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