Fritz de Quervain

Fritz de Quervain (1868 – 1940)

Fritz de Quervain (1868-1940) was a Swiss surgeon.

A true General surgeon who published his work prolifically, wrote a widely used major textbook on surgery and designed an innovative operating table and autoclave for sterilisation. Major interest in the epidemiology of many diseases and perhaps can be described as one of the fathers of modern clinical research.

Published over 300 papers, many of which were devoted to thyroid disease from the epidemiology of thyroid disease to technical procedures relating to thyroidectomy. Worked extensively in disease of the thyroid and defining subacute thyroiditis (De Quervain subacute struma). Evaluated cases of complete testicular feminization the commonest form of male pseudohermaphroditism. Introduced iodised table salt in the treatment of thyroid disease.

One of the earliest clinicians to appreciate that post operative pneumonia was often really a pulmonary infarct due to embolism. In 1894 He described the chronic tendonitis that bears his name De Quervain disease

  • Born on May 4, 1868, Sion, Valais, Switzerland
  • 1892 – Qualified in medicine from the University of Bern
  • 1893-1894 Surgical assistant to Emil Theodor Kocher at Inselspital – Universitätsspital Bern
  • 1895 – Surgical resident La Chaux-de-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel
  • 1910 – Chair of surgery University of Basel
  • 1918 – Succeeded Kocher as professor of surgery at Inselspital – Universitätsspital Bern
  • 1920 – President of the Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Chirurgie
  • 1938 – Retired
  • Died on January 24, 1940 of acute pancreatitis

Medical Eponyms
De Quervain disease (1894)

Chronic tenosynovitis that thickens the tendon sheaths of the abductor muscle long of the thumb and of the extensor short muscle of the thumb.

On December 18, 1894, De Quervain, described tenosynovitis in Mrs. D., a 35-year-old woman who had severe pain in the extensor muscle region of the thumb, excluding tuberculosis.

It is a condition affecting the tendon sheaths of the abductor pollicis longus, and the extensor pollicis brevis. It has definite symptoms and signs. The condition may affect other extensor tendons at the wrist

De Quervain F. 1895

The term “de Quervain’s tenosynovitis” may be a misnomer. In fact, de Quervain credits Emil Theodor Kocher with the first description of the disease and first surgical treatment. [PMID 9316729]

A similar tenosynovitis had been described previously by Tillaux (the “aïe” crepitant) and by Grais in 1893 as ‘wasp disease’.

The Finkelstein test or modified Eichhoff test can be used to confirm the diagnosis.

De Quervain thyroiditis

Subacute, non-bacterial inflammation of the thyroid gland, often after viral infection of respiratory tract. Self-limiting granulomatous inflammatory disorder, which is thought to be virally induced in genetically predisposed individuals.

Characterized by thyroid pain and thyrotoxicosis, as well as by systemic symptoms like fever, hepatic cytolysis, and an elevated ESR. Often mistaken for an upper respiratory tract infection.

Major Publications



  • Serpell J. Fritz de Quervain. In: Pasieka J, Lee J. (eds) Surgical Endocrinopathies. 2015: 49-51

Eponymous terms


BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.