Charles Heber McBurney (1845 – 1913) was an American general surgeon.
Charles McBurney was an innovative surgeon who pioneering in his approach to the diagnostics and operative treatment of appendicitis.
Eponymously affiliated with McBurney’s point and McBurney’s incision
McBurney published important work on the treatment of pyloric stenosis; management of shoulder dislocation with fracture and a transduodenal approach for stone extraction from the lower end of the bile duct.
An advocate of the use of rubber gloves during surgery to improve aseptic technique
- Born February 17th, 1845- in Roxbury, Massachusetts
- 1866- Graduated from Harvard University with a Master of Arts degree
- 1870- Received his MD, having matriculated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University in New York
- 1871- Undertook postgraduate studies in Vienna, Paris and London
- 1872- Appointed Assistant Demonstrator of Anatomy at Columbia University
- 1889- Appointed Professor of Surgery at Columbia University
- 1901- Appointed Professor of Clinical Surgery at Columbia University
- 1901- Attended President William McKinley after being shot at close range
- 1907- Recognised as Professor Emeritus of Surgery
- Died November 7th, 1913- in Brookline Massachusetts, aged 68- from heart disease.
1898 – Devised new approach to common bile duct (CBD) stones via the duodenum and through the sphincter of Oddi, rather than the traditional approach through the wall of the CBD itself.
He developed this operation because of the relative ease of suturing duodenal wall compared to that of CBD wall and described his approach as ‘quicker, cleaner and safer, in my opinion, than the operation which is usually done’
McBurney’s point (McBurney’s sign) (1889)
First described in a paper entitled ‘Experience with Early Operative Interference in Cases of Disease of the Vermiform Appendix’
‘The seat of greatest pain, determined by the pressure of one finger, has been very exactly between an inch and a half and two inches from the anterior spinous process of the ilium on a straight line drawn from that process to the umbilicus’.
McBurney’s Incision (1894)
‘The incision is an oblique one about four inches long. It crosses a line drawn from the anterior iliac spine to the umbilicus nearly at right angles about one inch from the iliac spine, and is so situated that its upper third lies above that line’.
The incision was designed to run parallel to the external oblique muscle, allowing the muscle to be split along its length, and so minimise anatomical disruption and reduce recovery times. The incision is still used today for open appendicectomies.
McBurney gave the credit for the inscision to Louis L. McArthur as he was the first to describe it.
- McBurney C. Experience with early operative interference in cases of disease of the vermiform appendix. New York Medical Journal, 1889, 50: 676-684.
- McBurney C. The Indications for Early Laparotomy in Appendicitis. Ann Surg. 1891 Apr; 13(4): 233–254. [PMC 1428594]
- McBurney C. The incision made in the abdominal wall in cases of appendicitis, with a description of a new method of operating. Ann Surg 1894:20:38–43 [PMC 1493708]
- McBurney C. The Reduction of Dislocation of the Humerus complicated by Fracture at the Anatomical Neck; Operative Treatment of Separation of the Lower Epiphysis of the Femur. Ann Surg. 1896 May; 23(5): 501–509.[PMC 1424962]
- McBurney C. The Use of Rubber Gloves in Operative Surgery. Ann Surg. 1898 Jul; 28(1): 108–119. [PMC 1427096 ]
- McBurney C. Direct Intra-Abdominal Finger-Compression of the Common Iliac Artery during Amputation at the Hip-Joint. Ann Surg. 1897 May; 25(5): 610–613. [PMC 1425291]
- McBurney C. Dislocation of the Humerus Complicated by Fracture at or near the Surgical Neck, with a New Method of Reduction. Ann Surg. 1894 Apr; 19(4): 399–415.[PMC 1493596]
- McBurney C. Removal of biliary calculi from the common duct by the duodenal route. Ann Surg 1898; 28:481–486 [PMC 1427193]
- McBurney C. Operations for Pyloric Stenosis. Ann Surg. 1886 May; 3(5): 372–380. [PMC 1431502]
The majority of modern textbooks refer to ‘McBurney’s Point’ as being two thirds of the distance between the umbilicus and the anterior superior iliac spine, though McBurney himself never actually specified this location.
Whilst ‘McBurney’s Incision’ bears his name, it was not, in fact, him that first proposed it. Fellow American surgeon Louis L. McArthur first described it in his paper ‘Choice of incisions for abdominal wall; especially for appendicitis’ in the Chicago Medical Recorder in 1894. McBurney later attributed full credit to McArthur for first describing the incision.
When President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, McBurney was embroiled in some controversy surrounding his assessment of the President’s condition. He was quoted as saying that the President would ‘surely recover’ and would ‘would be back at his desk within six weeks’. Despite his optimistic pronouncements, the President died from complications ten days after the initial surgery. The story was sensationalised in the press, with many believing the medical team, including McBurney, to have mismanaged the situation, however, in a joint statement from all attending medical staff they stated that ‘The unfortunate result could not have been foreseen before the unfavorable symptoms declared themselves late on the sixth day and could not have been prevented by any human agency
- Yale SH, Musana KA. Charles Heber McBurney (1845 – 1913). Clin Med Res. 2005 Aug; 3(3): 187–189. [PMC 1237161]
- Grover CA, Sternbach G. Charles McBurney: McBurney’s point. The Journal of emergency medicine. 42 (5): 578-81. [PMID 21982626]
- JAMA Review: Charles McBurney (1845–1913)—point, sign, and incision. JAMA 1966;197:1098–1099 [PMID 5331249]
- Morgenstern L. Charles McBurney (1845–1913). Afield from the appendix. Surg Endosc 1996;10:385–386.[PMID 8661782]
the person behind the name