Robert Kienböck

Robert Kienböck (1871-1953)

Robert Kienböck (1871-1953) was an Austrian radiologist and pioneer in radiotherapy.

Significant work on quantifying radiation dose exposure, therapeutic radiation therapy and later in life diagnostic radiology. One of the few pioneers in radiology whose life was not shortened by the effects of exposure to radiation

Best remembered for his publication ‘Concerning traumatic malacia of the lunate and it’s consequences‘ – Kienböck disease in 1910. In the very same issue he also described the patterns of carpal dislocations.

  • Born on January 11, 1871 Vienna, Austria
  • 1895 – Graduated Vienna School of Medicine – same year Wihelm Conrad Röntgen invented the X-ray
  • 1897 – London, Paris and Vienna studying and perfecting the application of Röntgen rays
  • 1899 – Founded private practice in Radiology
  • 1910 – Open skull fracture following fall form horse. Resultant hearing deficit and profound personality change – from outspoken cheerful man into a quiet, secluded scholar
  • Transferred energies form therapeutic to diagnostic radiology
  • 1917 – Professor of radiology
  • 1934 – Co-founder and first President of the Austrian Röntgen Society
  • 1933-1942 Completed 8 Volumes of his definitive tome ‘X-ray diagnosis of bone and joint diseases’
  • Died on September 7, 1953

Medical Eponyms
Kienböck Quantimeter (1905)

Discoloration of solver bromide under the influence of X-rays to quantify radiation exposure

Kienböck disease (1910)

Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis) of the lunate leading to abnormal carpal motion

Key Medical Attributions:
  • 1900 – Röntgen rays or the electric field generated by the x-ray tube were thought to be associated with necrotic skin ulcers in overexposed patients. Kienböck performed a series of experiments in which he examined the effects of radiation on exposed skin and demonstrated definitively that x-rays and not electric fields were responsible for the skin damage
  • 1901 – Kienböck observed that rapidly dividing cell populations were especially radiosensitive and proved that the degree of skin injury was proportional to the absorbed dose of radiation
  • 1905 – Invented the Quantimeter (strips of silver bromide impregnated paper) to quantify the radiation exposure associated with X-rays
  • Over 250 papers, presentations and lectures on diagnostic radiology and a the acute/chronic atrophy of bones (later described as ‘Sudeck’s’ atrophy), osteopsathyrosis (brittle bones), rheumatic and tubercular joint diseases, tabetic arthropathy, chondromatoses, skeletal cysts, and skeletal echinococcosis. His investigations were decisive in distinguishing Paget’s disease from the generalized osteitis fibrosa cystica (von Recklinghausen’s syndrome) — diseases previously thought to be the same

Major Publications
  • Kienböck R. Über die Einwirkung des Röntgen-Lichtes auf die Haut. [About the effect of X-rays on the skin] Wiener klinische Wochenschrift. 1900;13:1153–1166.
  • Kienböck R. Absorptionsgesetz. Wien Klin Wochenschr 1900;50:1153–1166.
  • Kienböck R. Zur Pathologie der Hautveränderungen durch Röntgenbestrahlung bei Mensch und Their. Wien Med Presse 1901;42:873–1040.
  • Kienböck R. Über dosimeter und das quantimetrische verfahren., Fortschr. Geb. Rontgenstr. 1905;9:276-295
  • Kienböck R. Über traumatische Malazie des Mondbeins und ihre Folgezustände: Entartungsformen und Kompressionfrakturen. Fortschritte auf dem Gebiete der Röntgenstrahlen. 1910–1911;16:77– 103. [Peltier LF. Translation: Concerning traumatic malacia of the lunate and its consequences: degeneration and compression fractures. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1980 Jun;(149):4-8. PMID6996884]
  • Kienböck R. Über Luxationen im Bereich der Handwurzel. Fortschritte auf dem Gebiete der Röntgenstrahlen. [About dislocations in the area of ​​the carpus] 1910-11;16:103-115.
  • Kienböck R. Röntgendiagnostik der Knochen und Gelenkkrankheiten. [X-ray diagnosis of bone and joint diseases] Berlin: Urban & Schwarzenberg, 1933.



Eponymous terms

  • Chocole M. Robert Kienböck: The man and his work. J Hand Surg Eur 2010; 35: 534-7. [PMID 20427409]
  • Langer MF, Vieth V, Stehling C, Surke C. [Robert Kienböck and Kienböck’s disease – A historical report]. Handchir Mikrochir Plast Chir. 2010 Jun;42(3):153-6. [PMID 20552543]
  • Wagner JP, Chung KC. A Historical report on Robert Kienböck (1871-1953) and Kienböck’s disease. J Hand Surg Am. 2005 Nov;30(6):1117-21. [PMID 16344165]
  • Revista Trauma. Epónimos. Trauma Fundación Mapfre Vol. 24 (2013), No. 3


the person behind the name

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.