William Edwards Ladd

William Edwards Ladd (1880 – 1967) was an American paediatric surgeon.

Known as the father of paediatric surgery.

Pioneering work included the surgical management of intussusception, malrotation and volvulus, pyloric stenosis, biliary atresia and Wilm’s tumour.


  • Born 8 September 1880 in Massachusetts as the sixth of seven children
  • Graduated with an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1906
  • 1910-1913 Assistant Visiting Surgeon to the Boston City Hospital, Infant’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Milton Hospital
  • 1912 – Assistant in Surgery at Harvard Medical School
  • 1927 – Surgeon-in-Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital
  • 1941 – co-authored the first modern American paediatric surgical textbook (Abdominal Surgery of Infancy and Childhood) with Robert E. Gross (1905-1988)
  • Died 15 April 1967

Medical Eponyms

  • Ladd’s bands – anomalous congenital peritoneal bands attaching the caecum to the posterior abdominal wall in cases of intestinal malrotation
  • Ladd’s operation (1932) – Incision of Ladd’s bands to relieve duodenal obstruction in malrotation of the intestine
  • Ladd-Gross syndrome – Icterus neonatorum associated with atresia of the bile ducts. 
  • Ladd’s syndrome (1932) – Congenital obstruction of the duodenum secondary to peritoneal bands (Ladd’s bands) resulting from a malrotated caecum.

Key Medical Attributions:

  • December 6, 1917, in Halifax harbour, Canada, the French cargo ship the S.S. Mont-Blanc, filled with wartime explosives, collided with the S.S. Nimo, a Norwegian ship. The detonation resulted in 2,000 deaths and 9,000 injured. Ladd arrived on scene within 24-hours in charge of a Red Cross Unit with enough equipment for a 500-bed hospital. He treated thousands of the injured, including hundreds of children with burns and lacerations.
  • On returning to Boston, Ladd devoted himself entirely to the surgical care of infants and children
  • From 1911, published multiple papers regarding his experience of intussusception and its management [Boston Med Surg J 1911, Boston Med Surg J 1913, Arch. Surg 1934]
  • Ladd pioneered the surgical management of Wilm’s tumour, including promoting the abdominal surgical approach over the posterior approach.  ‘Embryoma of the kidney (Wilm’s tumour)
  • Made key contributions in the surgical management of cleft palate and bladder exstrophy [N Eng J Med 1940]
  • Also contributed to the surgical management of biliary atresia, tracheoesophageal fistulas/atresias, and anorectal malformations [American Journal of Surgery 1934]
  • A number of Ladd’s trainees went on to achieve notable milestones in paediatric surgery including;
    • Orvar Swenson – best known for his work with Hirschsprung disease
    • Robert E. Gross – credited for being one of the first to report successful closure of a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (1939) and pioneering treatment of aortic coarctation, co-author of Ladd’s Paediatric Surgery textbook mentioned above, and Ladd’s successor as Chair of Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital (1945)

Major Publications


eponymictionary CTA 2


the person behind the name

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

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