Biography of Edoardo Bassini
Edoardo Bassini the foot soldier
Edoardo Bassini was born in 1844 in Pavia, the son of a farmer. He studied medicine at the University of Pavia, graduating in 1866, at the age of only 22 years. This was the year when Italy was united into one state. During the Prussian-Austrian war he joined the unification movement under Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) as a foot soldier and in 1867 he sustained a bayonet wound in the groin and was taken prisoner. For several months he was nursed because of a faecal fistula which was successfully treated by Luigi Porta (1800-1875).
Upon his release he returned to Pavia to become the assistant of the chief of surgery, Luigi Porta. At the suggestion of his mentor, Bassini went abroad for further training. He worked at Christian Theodor Billroth’s (1829-1894) in Vienna and there learned the technique of stomach resection. He then went to Berlin to work with Bernhard Rudolph Konrad von Langenbeck (1810-1887), learning the basics of plastic surgery and the design of surgical instruments. In Munich he worked with Johann Nepomuk Ritter von Nussbaum (1829-1890) to perfect his knowledge of stomach surgery. From Berlin he travelled to London where he visited Thomas Spencer-Wells and Joseph Lister and learned the latter’s techniques for antiseptic surgery.
Only 30 years of age he returned to Pavia in 1874 as second assistant to Porta, who died one year later. Bassini lost the struggle for the appointment as surgeon in chief, and disappointed he quit and returned to London for six months to continue his studies. After returning to Italy he became head of the department of surgery at the hospital La Spezia, and in 1878 he was appointed lecturer in surgery at Parma.
In 1882 he moved to the University of Padua as head of surgical pathology, and in 1888 he succeeded Tito Vanzetti (1809-1888) in the chair of clinical surgery, a position he held until 1919.
Clean it up!
Bassini was an early advocate of Listerian techniques and was instrumental in introducing these concepts into Italian surgery. When he came to Pavia the anatomy theatre where operations were done at the university hospital was run down, dirty and stinking. Bassini had it cleaned up and by introducing Carbolic acid and Eucalyptus increased the patients’ chances of survival. He also demanded that surgeons coming from the dissection room washed their hands before entering the sick wards.
Bassini's interest in inguinal hernia had grown during his time as a pathologist at Pavia. As a clinician he noted that each and every one of contemporary methods presupposed a life-long bandaging to prevent relapse. Bassini’s solution to the problem was reconstructing the inguinal canal and restore the anatomy.
Bassini carried out his operation for the first time in 1884, but did not present it until 1887, before the Italian Association of Surgery. In 1890 he published an article in "Archiv für klinische Chirurgie" and it was only then that his method became known outside Italy.
Bassini's operation reinforces and reconstructs the inguinal canal in a physiological way, without the use of any other foreign material but the suture thread. The natural curtain mechanism of the inguinal canal is recreated and the hernia sac is ligated higher up. All these ideas were revolutionary in the 1800's.
In 1894 he presented the results of 206 operations with an almost 100 % five year follow up. There were no mortalities and only eleven wound infections. Eight patients had a relapse.
Bassini was considered a meticulous and careful operator, and an interesting and able teacher.