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A Look Back: 100 Years of Innovation in Orthopaedic Surgery

Improvements in patient care, research and education set the stage for a promising future


By Brendan M. Patterson, MD


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Cleveland Clinic’s rich, patient-centered history began 100 years ago. Even then, innovation was the cornerstone of our academic healthcare mission. It has enabled us to create a culture that drives improvements in patient care, leads breakthrough research and provides exemplary training.

A culture of innovation in orthopaedic surgery

In orthopaedic surgery, specifically, this culture of innovation gave rise to several notable accomplishments in the last century — from early work in carpal tunnel diagnostics and the advent of sports medicine to surgical innovations that became the gold standard, and more.

Some of our most meaningful accomplishments include:

  • In 1951, George Phalen, MD, devised a test and etiological description of entrapment of the median nerve at the wrist called the “Phalen sign” to identify carpal tunnel.
  • In 1969, John Bergfeld, MD, integrated Cleveland Clinic Orthopaedic patient care services with sports thus creating what we know today as sports medicine; treating athletes of all ages from professional to youth sports injuries.
  • Together, Jack Andrish, MD, and Masahiro Kurosaka, MD, designed interference screws in 1987 that allowed for a strong initial fixation and more aggressive rehabilitation in ACL reconstruction. The interference screws became the gold standard for over a decade and are still in use today.
  • Beginning in 2005, research performed by Eric Ricchetti, MD, and Joseph Iannotti, MD, PhD, on 3D pre-operative surgical planning and patient-specific instrumentation changed how shoulder arthroplasty was and still is performed worldwide.
  • Kurt Spindler, MD, developed and implemented the outcomes measurement evaluation (OME) for all major orthopaedic and spine procedures. It’s used consistently as an assessment of procedural quality. This system has collected patient data including post-operative pain, function and satisfaction, helping improve and economize care.

In this same spirit of innovation, last year we increased utilization of virtual visits, created a self-scheduling platform and expanded our centers of excellence and robotic-assisted surgeries. We are exceedingly proud of our history and are heartened by the future possibilities in delivering care.

About the author

Dr. Patterson is Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in Cleveland Clinic’s Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute. His specialty areas include limb salvage, complex fractures, adult reconstruction, hip and knee replacements.


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