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Howard Christian Naffziger

Born 1884
Died 1961

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American neurosurgeon, born 1884, Nevada City, California; died 1961.

Biography of Howard Christian Naffziger

Howard Christian Naffziger Naffziger graduated from the University of California in 1909. With Walter Edward Dandy (1886-1946) he then spent almost a year as assistant resident under Harvey Williams Cushing (1869-1939) in Baltimore, before he returned to the University of California in 1912. He joined the faculty as assistant in surgery in the School of Medicine and assistant surgeon at the University of California.

One patient who came to Naffziger in 1920 brought with him a letter which his consultant had sent to the patient's brother (a physician) as follows: “You and I know that surgical assaults upon the brain, although spectacular, do not give much promise from the patient's standpoint. Therefore, I am suggesting that a simple decompression be done by a competent surgeon. Should a dural growth be present, it can be dealt with.” In this case Naffziger verified a left frontal glioma by frontotemporal osteoplastic craniotomy, which allowed him to make a subtemporal decompression first.

During World War I Naffziger served with the expeditionary force in France. In 1927, Naffziger was asked by the president of University of California to survey leading eastern US medical centres with a view toward improving surgical teaching methods. His detailed report committed him to leadership in medical education and led to his appointment as professor and chairman of the department of surgery in 1929.

Naffziger was admired for his pioneering work in thyroid-related exophthalmos. Vogt and Torkildsen called the orbital decompression operation the Naffziger Operation. His name was also used in connection with the scalenus anticus syndrome, entered in this work as Adson's syndrome, and with radicular pain brought on by jugular vein compression - the Naffziger Test (1935).

In May 1944, a Naffziger number of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease honoured him on his 60th birthday.

During World War II Naffziger commanded U.S. Hospital No. 30 in the Far East and maintained his interest in that area, being chairman of WHO Mission (Medical) to the Philippines and visiting professor in Taiwan. In 1951 he was succeeded by Edwin Boldrey as chairman of the department of surgery. He died of reticulum cell carcinoma.

    “the fascination of brain surgery lies in its difficulties.”
    Brain surgery with special reference to exposures of the brain stem and posterior fossa . . .
    Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Chicago, 1928, 46: 241-248.

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