Jacques Lisfranc de Saint-Martin

Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin (1787 – 1847)

Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin (1787 – 1847) was a French Surgeon.

Founder of a great number of surgical procedures including – surgical resection of the rectum in the treatment of rectal carcinoma (1826); lithotomy in women and the amputation of the cervix uteri

Performed and recorded many amputations most notably: désarticulation de l’épaule (1814); désarticulation tarso-métatarsienne: opération dite de Lisfranc (1815); désarticulation des métacarpes (1823), des phalanges des doigts (1823), de l’articulation coxofémorale (1823)

Eponymously affiliated with the Lisfranc joint/fracture/injury/amputation after he described an amputation method through the tarsometatarsal joints in 1815

  • Born on April 12, 1787, in Saint Paul-en-Jarez, Loire
  • 1806-1813 Interne à l’Hôtel-Dieu de Lyon et de Paris (under Guillaume Dupuytren)
  • 1813 – Medical doctorate – Thèse de médecine de Paris n° 135 (Describing Dupuytren’s operation for the removal of the lower jawbone)
  • 1814 – Army surgeon; Médecin-adjoint for a year
  • 1815 – Famous for practicing ‘nouvelles méthodes opératoires’ for the amputation of the arm ‘dans son articulation scapulo-humérale’, and that of the partial amputation foot ‘dans son articulation tarsométatarsienne’
  • 1823 – Turbulent relationship with Dupuytren. “Le chirurgien Lisfranc fut l’ennemi et la caricature de Dupuytren” (Véron 1853). Unfortunately the enmity brought to him by Dupuytren (qualifying him as “un chirurgien médiocre et bruyant, un boute-feu révolutionnaire, une sorte de Brutus solliciteur…“) denied him access to the Faculty of Medicine where he wanted to become a professor.
  • 1826 – Chief surgeon at L’Hôpital de la Pitié, Paris; performed the first 5 operative resections for rectal carcinoma
  • Died on May 12, 1847. On his tomb in Montparnasse, his favourite maxim:

Si la chirurgie est brillante quand elle opère, elle l’est encore bien davantage lorsque, sans faire couler de sang et sans mutilation, elle obtient la guérison des malades

Surgery is bright when operating but it is still brighter when there is no blood and mutilation and yet leads to the patient’s recovery

Medical Eponyms
Lisfranc injury; ligament; joint; amputation… [opération de Lisfranc]

Like Chopart (with the midtarsal joint), Lisfranc is eponymously associated with his tarsometatarsal forefoot amputation; the joint disarticulated; and the associated fracture-dislocation.

  • Lisfranc joint – the tarsometatarsal joint
  • Lisfranc ligament – connects the superolateral surface of the medial cuneiform to the superomedial surface of the base of the second metatarsal
  • Lisfranc amputation (tarsometatarsal disarticulation) – partial amputation of the foot at the tarsometatarsal joint. Famously performed by Lisfranc in less than a minute.
  • Lisfranc injury – fracture and dislocation/subluxation of the tarsometatarsal joints with lateral displacement of the metatarsals

Lisfranc facilitated the trans-metatarsal amputation with what he termed his “master stroke” to transect the Lisfranc ligament:

Le couteau dans le dos s’appuie sur le tendon transversal du long péronier latéral, pénètre de la pointe, tranchant haut, dans l’interligne et coupe en se relevant le ligament inter-osseux par le coup de maître

Malgré la supériorité vainement contestée de la méthode Chopart, les practiciens ont senti comme moi la nécessité de conserver plus de longueur au moignon.

Outre les muscles et les tendons qui fortifient la contiguité tarso-métatarsienne, elle possède des ligamens qui lui sont propres: l’articulation du second os du métatarse avec les cunéiformes en a trois pour sa face dorsale et trois pour la plantaire…

Telle que nous venons de la décrire, l’amputation partielle du pied dans l’articulation tarso-métatarsienne est terminée en moins d’une minute; or, il nous semble qu’on doit la préférer à celle de Chopart toutes les fois que le désordre des parties le permettre. 

Lisfranc, 1815

The knife in the back rests on the transverse tendon of the long lateral peroneus, penetrates from the point, sharp high, in the space and cut while raising the interosseous ligament with the masterstroke

Despite the vainly contested superiority of the Chopart method, practicians such as I have felt the need to conserve more length in the stump.

Aside from the muscles and tendons which fortify the tarso-metatarsal joint, it also possesses ligaments of it’s own: the articulation of the second metatarsal bone with the cuneiforms has three (ligaments) on its dorsal and three on its plantar surface…

Such as we have described it, the partial amputation of the foot in the tarso-metatarsal articulation is completed in less than one minute; thus it would seem that one should prefer it to the Chopart method, whenever the derangement of the parts would permit.

Lisfranc, 1815

Lisfranc’s description of amputation through the tarsal-metatarsal joints requires several pages to describe it, but it took only 1 minute for him to perform it — not too short a time for the unanesthetized patient

Cassebaum WH, 1963

Of note, Lisfranc never claimed the invention of this intervention stating:

Je n’ai jamais eu la prétention d’avoir imaginé l’amputation dans l’articulation tarso-métatarsienne: il m’appartient d’avoir le premier fait convenablement et rigoureusement l’anatomie chirurgicale de l’articulation du tarse avec le métatarse, et d’avoir décrit l’extirpation en masse de tous les métatarsiens avec assez de soin pour que l’opération soit devenue facile et promp.

Lisfranc 1815

I have never claimed to have imagined amputation in the tarso-metatarsal joint: it is up to me to have been the first to properly and rigorously perform the surgical anatomy of the tarsal joint with the metatarsus, and for having described the mass extirpation of all the metatarsals with enough care that the operation became easy and prompt.

Lisfranc 1815

Key Medical Contributions

Lisfranc tubercle (1815)

Scalene tubercle on the first rib at the insertion of the scalenus anterior muscle

Other methods of disarticulation (1823)

In 1823 Lisfranc documented many and varied disarticulation methods and procedures including des métacarpes; des phalanges des doigts; and de l’articulation coxofémorale

Rectal carcinoma excision (1826)

On March 24, 1830 Lisfranc presented to the Academy of Medicine his report on “excision of the lower part of the carcinomatous rectum“, an operation to remove up to 8 cm of the rectum. At the end of the report, published in 1833, Lisfranc indicates that he lost 3 out of 9 patients: two cases of local infection and one case of peritonitis verified by autopsy in subjects with already extensive cancers

Lisfranc’s operation is performed in two stages: lowering of the rectum, and resection tumor:

Le chirurgien fait, à un pouce environ de l’anus deux incisions semi-lunaires qui se réunissent en arrière et en avant du rectum ; on dissèque en dirigeant le bistouri perpendiculairement sur l’intestin qui est isolé de toutes parts : le doigt indicateur est introduit dans sa capacité ; il exerce sur lui des tractions qui les font saillir en bas.

Lisfranc 1833

The surgeon makes two semilunar incisions about an inch from the anus which meet behind and in front of the rectum; one dissects by directing the scalpel perpendicularly on the intestine which is isolated on all sides: the indicating finger is introduced in its capacity; he pulls down to allow them to protrude at the bottom.

Lisfranc 1833

He first performed successful excision of the rectum for uncomplicated cancer in 1826 at the Hôpital de la Pitié in Paris. He employed a perineal or posterior approach excising the infraperitoneal portion by pulling down and cutting a few centimetres of rectum.

Practiced after him by Velpeau, Chassaignac and Richet; perfected by Denonvilliers and Verneuil (with the resection of the coccyx); Lisfranc’s operation was the only one used for the next fifty years.


Lisfranc, known for his booming voice and choleric lectures, referred to his teacher and colleague Baron Guillaume Dupuytren as “the brigand of l’Hotel Dieu.” Their rivalry was such that Dupuytren prevented Lisfranc from becoming a professor of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris. Lisfranc was an excellent surgeon, but equally as polemic as Dupuytren and not a nice chap by all accounts…

Jacques Lisfranc of Saint-Martin was born on April 12, 1787 ( not on April 2, 1790 as claimed by most) – Review the baptism certificate and Plaque [Fischer LP 2005]

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

eponymictionary CTA


the person behind the name

Resident medical officer in emergency medicine MB ChB (Uni. Dundee)  MRCS Ed. Avid traveller, yoga teacher, polylinguist with a passion for discovering cultures.

Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books |

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