"Can't walk nor raise arms to head": Harvey cushing's surgical treatment of poliomyelitis

Courtney Pendleton, Michael J. Dorsi, Allan J. Belzberg, Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Study Design: This study was a retrospective chart review for patients undergoing operative treatment by Dr. Harvey Cushing at the Johns Hopkins Hospital between 1896 and 1912. Objective: To illustrate the early use of peripheral nerve anastomoses for the treatment of postpoliomyelitis paralysis. Summary of Background Data: At the turn of the 20th century, poliomyelitis was recognized as a disease of neurons; neurological surgeons sought to find a surgical cure for the paralysis occurring after the disease onset. Peripheral nerve anastomoses were an attractive option employed during this time. Methods: Following IRB approval, and through the courtesy of the Alan Mason Chesney Archives, the surgical records of the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1896 to 1912 were reviewed. A single case of peripheral nerve anastomosis for the treatment of postpoliomyelitis paralysis was selected for further analysis. Results: Cushing performed a multiple peripheral nerve anastomoses in a 3-year-old girl. Although the patient experienced no postoperative complications, there was no improvement in her function at the time of discharge from the hospital, and no long-term follow-up was available. Conclusion: While unsuccessful, Cushing's use of peripheral nerve anastomoses to restore motor function in the pediatric patient described here demonstrates his commitment to pushing the boundaries of neurological surgery at the turn of the 20th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-333
Number of pages4
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2012



  • Harvey Cushing
  • peripheral nerve
  • poliomyelitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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