The orthopaedic surgery tradition at Ghent University in Belgium
includes several decades of contributions from orthopaedic and surgical leaders
and key developments related to osteosynthesis, shoulder biomechanics,
scoliosis treatment and meniscal transplantation.
In Europe, Ghent University is very well known due particularly to
the orthopaedics school, Philippe Neyret, MD, of Lyon, France, said.
During the last century, Albin Lambotte, MD, introduced the
principles of osteosynthesis and was a pioneer. He was one of the first to
travel to the United States and other foreign countries to disseminate Belgian
orthopaedic knowledge, Neyret told Orthopaedics Today
Lambotte: a trainer
Jean Verbrugge, MD, became chairman of the
Ghent Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in March 1946. Today, clamps and
spreaders named for him are still used worldwide.
Images: UZ Ghent
Lambotte mainly worked and taught in Antwerp and Brussels, but his name
is associated with the outstanding orthopaedic clinical and research work done
throughout Belgium in the 1800s and 1900s.
He trained Jean Verbrugge, MD, the first orthopaedic surgeon to head
what today is the University of Ghent Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and
René Verdonk, MD, PhD, the current head of the department, was
appointed to the position in 1992. He is a member of the Orthopaedics
Today Europe Editorial Board, past president of the European Society of
Sports Trauma, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy and member of the Advisory Board of
Directors of the International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and
Orthopaedic Sports Medicine.
Prof. Verdonk is a respected leader throughout Europe and
internationally, Kenneth E. DeHaven, MD, of Rochester, U.S.A., said.
At various points in its evolution, the department included radiology,
radiotherapy, physiotherapy, kinesiotherapy and rheumatology. Physiotherapy in
Ghent, for example, is more than 100 years old, but today is among the
specialties that are no longer part of the department.
Lambotte and Verbrugge, who joined the department in 1946, following
L.H. VanHouteghem, MD, collaborated on numerous efforts, including traveling to
Argentina to operate and train surgeons there.
Together they made many instruments, like the Verbrugge clamp,
which is still in use all over the orthopaedic world, and the Verbrugge
spreader, Verdonk said.
Interestingly, both men constructed wooden musical instruments,
including highly sought-after violins.
Orthopaedic manufacturers were not yet established, so Lambotte designed
and hand-fabricated many of the orthopaedic devices he used in the operating
Some of them aided his work on osteosynthesis of the femur performed in
the early 1900s.
He impressed the value of this form of manual training on all his
students, according to an article in the Journal of Bone and Joint
Surgery (JBJS) published after Lambottes death in
Hydrotherapy was among the many early modes of
orthopaedic rehabilitation. This hydrotherapy room at the Ghent Orthopaedic
Clinic, photographed in 1959, was mainly used for rehabilitating patients with
Verbrugge served as president of the Belgian Orthopaedic Society three
times and in 1962 was president of the Belgian Surgery Society.
The author of a popular orthopaedic textbook, he was also corresponding
editor of JBJS from Belgium and an honorary fellow of an
educational foundation started in the 1920s to foster the exchange of
information between Belgium and the United States.
From 1936 to 1945, VanHouteghem initiated the practice of training
medical students in orthopaedics, which at the time consisted mainly of
treating childrens deformities, according to Verdonk.
Etienne Vereecken, MD, was a physiotherapist and worked at the
Department of Physiotherapy and Rheumatology from 1941 to 1948 and started the
pediatric and adult scoliosis surgery service, which current department member
Dirk Uyttendaele, MD, has maintained and expanded, Verdonk said.
Physiotherapist Henry Claessens, MD, succeeded Verbrugge as department
chairman in 1965. At the time, the department included physiotherapy and
This was to me a major plus, since physiotherapy involves
conservative care and orthopaedics is also conservative treatment, although
sometimes operating is necessary, Verdonk said.
We were led by somebody who was not a surgeon. Over the years we
tend to call ourselves orthopaedic surgeons, but in fact we are orthopaedic
physicians and we also do surgery.
This made training for orthopaedics here valuable since it looked
at surgery, conservative treatment and inflammatory diseases; a much broader
view of locomotor pathology than if you just trained in an orthopaedic
department where you did more surgery than anything else, Verdonk
In 1967, Claessens succeeded in incorporating traumatology into the
orthopaedic department by inviting the service to join it. He
retired in 1992 and was succeeded by Verdonk.
By 1996, physiotherapy was a separate university department, although it
is housed today in the same building with orthopaedic surgery.
DeHaven, former president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic
Surgeons, said Verdonk and his team, including his son, Peter, who is also an
orthopaedic surgeon, have pioneered meniscus transplantation using viable
They are widely recognized in Europe for this ongoing work,
he told Orthopaedics Today Europe.
Albin Lambotte, MD, (center) is famous for
his contributions in the area of osteosynthesis and trauma. He also trained
many orthopaedic surgeons in Europe, Brazil and Argentina, including Jean
Verdonks early training at a large center in Antwerp that
specialized in knee surgery and sports-related trauma is one reason the
department earned its world-wide reputation for innovative knee treatments.
Verdonk started performing knee arthroscopy in 1975 and has since
continued to focus on knee injuries.
He said, That was pioneering work in the sense that we started
with new knee techniques for types of knee surgery that were formerly
exclusively done open.
Neyret described Ghent orthopaedist K. Fredrik Almqvist, MD, PhD, one of
Verdonks pupils, as One of the most productive orthopaedic surgeons
in the field of management of cartilage defects.
One of Almqvists innovative contributions to cartilage repair was
his pioneering use of allogenic cartilage cells placed in a 3-D matrix, Neyret
The department plans to continue its emphasis on the knee, meniscal
pathology, treatment and replacement.
We are developing further surgical treatments and aggressive
treatment for tumors because of what we learned from Prof. Claessens. Because
of his experience, we are also involved in shoulder surgery, biomechanics and
implants, an area headed by Lieven F. DeWilde, MD, Verdonk said.
Freezing autologous bone for reimplantation during musculoskeletal tumor
surgery, a take-off on Claessens approach of irradiating bone to
effectively kill tumor cells, is now being investigated by department members.
Verdonk expects it, as well as research into a new partial meniscus replacement
device, to be among the important clinical contributions to come from Ghent in
For more information:
Kenneth E. DeHaven, MD, can be reached at the University of Rochester
Medical Center, Box 665, 601 Elmwood Ave., Rochester, NY 14642-2970 U.S.A.;
Philippe Neyret, MD, can be reached at Hopital de la Croix-Rousse, 8,
rue de Margnolles, Centre Medico Sportif Albert Trillat, Centre Livet, 69300
Lyon, France. +33-472-071989; e-mail:
René Verdonk, MD, can be reached at Department of Orthopaedic
Surgery, Ghent University Hospital, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium;
+32-9-332-2227; e-mail: Rene.Verdonk@uzgent.be.
Albin Lambotte 1866-1955. J Bone Joint Surg (Am).