J reconstr Microsurg 2018; 34(01): 021-028
DOI: 10.1055/s-0037-1606272
Original Article
Thieme Medical Publishers 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

Nikolaus Rüdinger (1832–1896), His Description of Joint Innervation in 1857, and the History of Surgical Joint Denervation

Andreas Gohritz
1  Plastische und Rekonstruktive und Ästhetische Chirurgie, Handchirurgie, Universitätsspital, Basel, Switzerland
2  Handchirurgie, Schweizer Paraplegiker-Zentrum, Nottwil, Switzerland
Erich Kaiser
3  Anatomische Anstalt der Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, München, Germany
Merlin Guggenheim
4  Swissparc, Steinentischstr. 5, Zürich, Switzerland
Arnold Lee Dellon
5  Department of Plastic Surgery and Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

16 June 2017

11 July 2017

Publication Date:
06 September 2017 (eFirst)


Background Selective joint denervation has become a reliable palliative treatment, especially for painful joints in the upper and lower extremity.

Methods This article highlights the life and work of Nikolaus Rüdinger (1832–1896) who first described joint innervation which became the basis of later techniques of surgical joint denervation. The historical evolution of this method is outlined.

Results Rüdinger made a unique career from apprentice barber to military surgeon and anatomy professor in Munich, Germany. His first description of articular innervation of temporomandibular, shoulder, elbow, wrist, finger, sacroiliac, hip, knee, ankle, foot, and toe joints in 1857 stimulated the subsequent history of surgical joint denervation. Comparing his investigations with modern joint denervation methods, developed by pioneers like Albrecht Wilhelm or A. Lee Dellon, shows his great exactitude and anatomical correspondence despite different current terminology. Clinical series of modern surgical joint denervations reveal success rates of up to 80% with reliable long-term results.

Conclusion The history of joint denervation with Rüdinger as its important protagonist offers inspiring insights into the evolution of surgical techniques and exemplifies the value of descriptive functional anatomy, even if surgical application may not have been realized until a century later.