Arthur Sydney Blundell Bankart

Born 1879
Died 1951

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English orthopaedic surgeon, 1879-1951.

Biography of Arthur Sydney Blundell Bankart

Arthur Sydney Blundell Bankart is one of the great names among British orthopaedists in the period between the wars, educated at a time when surgery advanced i giant leaps. He is mostly known for his technique in the operation of recidivating shoulder luxation and its pathology.

Blundell Bankart, the son of a surgeon from Exeter, qualified as a doctor in 1906. He first worked at Guy's Hospital and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1909, the next year becoming Master of Surgery at Cambridge. From 1909 he held a position at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, which was founded that year. Here he developed the precise and astonishingly fast technique which impressed his pupils, and had the freedom to devote himself entirely to his favourite activity: operating.

Today Bankart probably would have been called a workaholic. During 1911 he simultaneously served several hospitals – one orthopaedic, two children's’ hospitals and a neurological hospital. He thus practised three surgical specialities at the same time. He conducted the majority of neurosurgery at the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases during his service there 1911-1933, and parallel to this did much of the neurosurgery at Middlesex Hospital – where he was an orthopaedic surgeon. Bankart was interested in spinal surgery and was one of the first in Great Britain to perform lateral cordotomy for relieving pain.

During the First World War he was called in and worked even harder through increased activity in some military hospital as well as with Robert Jones in the newly opened Shepherd’s Bush Military Orthopaedic Centre with 800 beds. During the Second World War he again worked hard and cared for 100 more beds in the Mount Vernon Hospital.

Bankart was a man of great integrity, not caring whom his patient was. He was straightforward, had charm, but was a shy and withdrawn man with whom it was not easy to come into personal contact. Many colleagues did not realise that he was shy, but rather considered him somewhat weird, as he would not eat with them in the eating room. Bankart, however, enjoyed the good life and even contact with other people, when he overcame his shyness he was good company.

Bankart happily continued working after his retirement in 1944, even operating. On April 8, 1951 he operated at the Mount Vernon Hospital until 8 p.m. On his way home his car had a flat tyre, he changed tyre, drove home, and died during the night, aged 71 years.

Shoulder dislocations
The first known description of a luxation of the shoulder joint is from an Egyptian papyrus known as Ebers' papyrus - from about 1522 B.C., as well as in a picture from an Egyptian grave from 1200 B.C., in which a reposition method rather similar to Theodor Kocher's (1841-1917) is depicted.

The most detailed early description stems from Hippocrates around 400 B.C. It describes both the anatomy, type of dislocation as well as reposition manoeuvre and the first surgical method for prophylaxis. His surgery consisted of burning with red-hot iron in the soft parts around the shoulder joints, resulting in a stabilizing formation of scars.

Before Bankart, other operations for habitual luxation of the shoulder had previously been described by the German surgeon Georg Clemens von Perthes (1869-1927) in 1906. Important work on the pathology etc. of the condition was done by Francis Mitchell Caird (1853-1926) in 1887, Auguste Broca (1859-1924) in 1890, and Henri Hartmann (1860-1952) in 1890.

Early operative methods still more or less usable are those by the Italian orthopaedist Vittorio Putti (1880-1940), and Henry Platt, described in 1948 by Osmond-Clarke. In 1923 Bankart described his reconstruction of the labrum and capsule lesion, a technique built on the reasoning of Perthes, and probably Bankart was inspired by the findings of both Perthes and Broca. This technique is still sometimes referred to as Broca-Perthes-Bankart. Bankart, however, has gained eponymic priority because the method was first generally spread among orthopaedists after his description.

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