Rudolph Nissen

Rudolf Nissen (1896 – 1981) was a German general surgeon.

Chaired surgery departments in Turkey, the United States and Switzerland. Remembered as the first to perform a successful lobectomy and pneumectomy

Eponymously affiliated with Nissen fundoplication

His feelings about Nazism made him refuse invitations to return to Germany and Austria after the war.


  • Born 5 September 1896 to a Jewish-German family in Neisse, Germany. Son of a famous German surgeon.
  • 1921 – Assistant to German surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1875-1951) – University of Munich
  • 1927 – Assistant to Sauerbruch – Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • 1933 – Head of surgery department, Istanbul University following Hitler’s Jewish boycott
  • 1939 – Surgery research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Chair of surgery at Maimonides Medical Center, New York
  • 1952 – 1967 Head of surgery, University of Basel
  • Died 22 January 1981

Key Medical Attributions:

  • 1931 – First pneumonectomy by a Western physician. Performed left pneumonectomy on a 12 year old girl with chronic empyema secondary to trauma [Ref]
  • Nissen was the surgeon who operated on Albert Einstein’s aortic aneurysm and the radiologist Buck’s hiatal hernia

Medical Eponyms

  • Nissen fundoplication
  • Also eponymously affiliated with a technique of closure of the duodenal stump, the ligature of periesophageal varices without esophagectomy, correction of hypospadia with scrotal skin, a kind of suture, a rib spreader and a forceps…

Major Publications

  • Nissen R. Die transpleurale Resektion der Kardia. Dtsch Z Chir, 1937; 249: 311–16.
  • Nissen R. Eine einfache Operation zur Beeinflussung der Refluxoesophagitis. Schweiz Med Wschr, 1956; 86: 590–2.
  • Nissen R. Reminiscences–reflux esophagitis and hiatal hernia. Rev Surg. 1970 Sep-Oct;27(5):307-14. [PMID 4922238]


  • Fults DW, Taussky P. The life of Rudolf Nissen: advancing surgery through science and principle. World J Surg. 2011 Jun;35(6):1402-8. [PMID 21424871]
  • Schein M, Schein H, Wise L. Rudolf Nissen: the man behind the fundoplication. Surgery. 1999 Mar;125(3):347-53. [PMID 10076622]
  • Liebermann-Meffert D. Rudolf Nissen (1896-1981)-perspective. J Gastrointest Surg. 2010 Feb;14 Suppl 1:S58-61. [PMID 19760372]
  • Garcelon JC, O’Leary JP. Dr. Rudolph Nissen: the man and his other contributions. Am Surg. 1995 May;61(5):468. [PMID 7733559]
  • Classics in thoracic surgery: Total pneumonectomy. Rudolf Nissen, M.D. Ann Thorac Surg. 1980 Apr;29(4):390-4. [PMID 6987966]
  • Herbella FA, Oliveira DR, Del Grande JC. Eponyms in esophageal surgery. Dis Esophagus. 2004;17(1):1-9. [PMID 15209735]
  • Jamieson GG, Duranceau A. What is a Nissen fundoplication? Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1984 Dec;159(6):591-3. [PMID 6505948]

eponymictionary CTA 2


the person behind the name

Dr Chloe Roy MBChB, BMed Sci (hons). Surgeon in the making | LinkedIn |

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 |

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