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Gavriil Ilizarov

Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov
Гавриил Абрамович Илизаров
Ilizarov in 1991
Born(1921-06-15)15 June 1921
Died24 July 1992(1992-07-24) (aged 71)
EducationCrimea Medical School
Known forIlizarov apparatus for lengthening limb bones
Medical career
ProfessionSurgeon, Physician
Sub-specialtiesOrthopedic surgery
Order of Lenin Order of Lenin Order of Lenin Order of the Red Banner of Labour
Lenin Prize (1979)

Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov (Russian: Гавриил Абрамович Илизаров; 15 June 1921 – 24 July 1992) was a Soviet physician, known for inventing the Ilizarov apparatus for lengthening limb bones and for the method of surgery named after him, the Ilizarov surgery.[1]

Life and work

Ilizarov was born the eldest of six children to a poor Jewish family in Białowieża, Białystok Voivodeship, Republic of Poland.

In 1928, the family moved to the parents of his father in the town of Qusar in Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, near Qırmızı Qəsəbə. His father, Abram Ilizarov, was a Mountain Jew from Qusar. In 1939, he graduated from Buynaksk Medical Rabfak, an educational establishment set up to prepare workers and peasants for higher education, and he entered the Crimea Medical School in Simferopol. After the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War in 1941, the school was evacuated to Kyzylorda in Kazakhstan.[2]

After finishing school in 1944, Ilizarov was sent to a rural hospital in Dolgovka, a village in Kurgan Oblast in Siberia, 2000 km east of Moscow.[3] In 1950, he obtained a position within a General Surgery Department of the Kurgan Regional Hospital, which included a duty as a surgeon with the air ambulance. In 1955, he became Chief of the Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics in the Regional Hospital for War Veterans in Kurgan.[1][4]

Bone experiments

An Ilizarov apparatus treating a fractured tibia and fibula

Ilizarov's residency was carried out in orthopedic surgery, during which he developed an external fixator system in 1951. He discovered that by carefully severing a bone without severing the periosteum around it, one could separate two halves of a bone slightly and fix them in place, and the bone would grow to fill the gap.[5] He also discovered that bone regrows at a fairly uniform rate across people and circumstances. These experiments led to the design of what is known as an Ilizarov apparatus, which holds a bone so severed in place, by virtue of a framework and pins through the bone, and separates halves of the bone by a tiny amount; by repeating this over time, at the rate of the bone's regrowth, it is possible to extend a bone by a desired amount. Originally, bicycle parts were used for the frame. The procedure was inspired by a shaft bow harness on a horse carriage.[4]

For long time, Ilizarov faced skepticism, resistance, and political intrigues from the medical establishment in Moscow, which tried to defame him as a quack. The steadily increasing statistics of successful treatments of patients led to a growing fame of Ilizarov throughout the country, and he became known among patients as "the magician from Kurgan". In 1968, Ilizarov defended his doctoral thesis in Perm and was awarded the title Doctor of Sciences bypassing the Candidate of Sciences degree for which the thesis had originally been prepared.[4] A breakthrough came in 1968, when Ilizarov successfully operated on Valeriy Brumel, the 1964 Olympic champion and a long-time world record holder in the men's high jump, who injured his right leg in a motorcycle accident. Before coming to Ilizarov, Brumel spent about three years for unsuccessful treatments in various clinics and underwent seven invasive and 25 non-invasive surgeries.[4][6]

Ilizarov Center

In 1971, the Kurgan Research Institute for Experimental and Clinical Orthopaedics and Traumatology (KNIIEKOT) was established in Kurgan. In the center, the Ilizarov method of transosseous osteosynthesis is applied to lengthen or reshape limb bones. Ilizarov was the head of this center until 1991. With about 1,000 beds, 24 operating rooms, and 168 employed physicians, KNIIEKOT became the largest orthopedic clinic in the world.[7][8][9]

After his death, KNIIEKOT was renamed the Russian Ilizarov Scientific Center for Restorative Traumatology and Orthopaedics (RISC RTO). The staff includes ten professors, 34 Doctors of Sciences, and 193 Candidates of Sciences. The RISC RTO comprises an out-patient clinic where 250 patients can be consulted daily, a hospital with 800 beds, an experimental department, and animal surgery. Every year, over 9,000 people undergo treatment at the RISC RTO.[10]

International recognition

Küntscher and Ilizarov
Ilizarov fixator
Wall paintings by Johannes Grützke in the lecture hall of BGUK, Hamburg

Scattered reports about the successful treatment of Brumel by Ilizarov appeared in the Western press during the Cold War era.[4] The first foreign medical visitor was Johannes Hellinger from the former GDR, Medical Academy of Erfurt in 1970.[11] He made a first publication in a Western medical journal about the Ilizarov Method.[12]

In 1980, Carlo Mauri, an Italian mountaineer, explorer, and photojournalist, on the urgings of his Russian colleague Yuri Senkevich, travelled to Kurgan, in the Soviet Union. He was to be treated by Ilizarov for a tibial fracture that healed incorrectly after a skiing accident ten years earlier. Italian doctors had long given up hope of any surgical improvement to the leg. Ilizarov distracted the stiff non-union in his tibia by 2 cm, healing the pseudarthrosis, corrected an equinus deformity by distraction and lengthened his leg. Mauri dubbed Ilizarov "the Michelangelo of Orthopaedics".[13] On his return to Italy, the healing of Mauri's leg amazed orthopaedic surgeons. Subsequent to this, Ilizarov was invited by Antonio Bianchi-Maiocchi and Roberto Cattaneo to be a guest speaker at the AO Italy conference in 1981 in Bellagio. He gave three lectures at the conferences to more than 200 participants from Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. At the end of the lectures, Ilizarov earned a ten-minute standing ovation. This was the first time Ilizarov spoke outside of the Iron Curtain.[4][14]

In 1982, the Association for the Study and Application of the Methods of Ilizarov (ASAMI) was formed in Italy.[5][15][16] In 1983, Medicalplastic, a company owned by Bianchi-Maiocchi, licensed the technique from the Soviet authorities, registered the ILIZAROV trademark,[17] and started to produce and market the Ilizarov apparatus.[14] In the following years, the Ilizarov method has spread rapidly through most of Western Europe. ASAMI organised courses in Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Spain, Greece, Brazil, and the United States. ASAMI groups were formed in France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Brazil.[18]

In 1986–1987, the technique was brought to North America by Drs. Victor Frankel, president of Hospital for Joint Diseases,[13][15] Dror Paley,[13] Alfred D. Grant,[13][14] and Stuart Green[13] who, in 1992, edited the first English translation of Ilizarov's book.[19] Over 300 American orthopaedic surgeons attended an international symposium organised in 1987 in New York by the Hospital for Joint Diseases and the Smith & Nephew company to hear the lectures by Ilizarov. Smith & Nephew started the distribution of the Ilizarov external fixator in the USA and worldwide.[13]

Fragment of a 1988 portrait of Ilizarov by Israel Tsvaygenbaum

In 1989, an Ilizarov conference was organised by Dietmar Wolter in Hamburg. In 1990, Ilizarov came to the second conference in Hamburg, where he co-founded the German Ilizarov Society (Deutsche Ilisarow-Gesellschaft). The hospital of the German Accident Prevention & Insurance Association (Berufsgenossenschaftliches Unfallkrankenhaus, BGUK) in Boberg, Hamburg-Lohbrügge, became a major center in Germany applying and promoting the Ilizarov technique.[20][21][22][23] It also became compulsory for all senior physicians of the hospital to visit the Kurgan Center for learning the Ilizarov method.[24][25]

Later life and death

The opposition by the Moscow medical establishment continued until the last years of Ilizarov's life. As late as 1991, just one year before his death, Ilizarov was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.[26] Despite numerous awards and the worldwide recognition, he was not elected to the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences.[27]

Ilizarov died of heart failure in 1992, at the age of 71.[28]

Awards and honours (selected)

Ilizarov with his apparatus on a 2021 stamp of Russia

Soviet and Russian



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n V.I. Shevtsov, I.L. Smirnova, L.G. Saldina. G.A. Ilizarov: many years of efforts, searches and victories. The chronicle of scientific-and-practical and social activities (to the 85 anniversary). Genius of Orthopedics (Гений Ортопедии) 2 (2006), p.5 (in Russian).
  2. ^ Илизаров Гавриил Абрамович Archived 2014-10-26 at the Wayback Machine. Лица Зауралья (in Russian)
  3. ^ В. С. Смирнов. Илизаров, Гавриил Абрамович. Герои страны (in Russian).
  4. ^ a b c d e f Svetlana Ilizarov (2006). "The Ilizarov Method: History and Scope". In S. Robert Rozbruch; Svetlana Ilizarov (eds.). Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Surgery. CRC Press. pp. 3–6. ISBN 0-8493-4051-9.
  5. ^ a b B. Spiegelberg; T. Parratt; S. K. Dheerendra; W. S. Khan; R. Jennings; D. R. Marsh (2010). "Ilizarov principles of deformity correction". Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 92 (2): 101–5. doi:10.1308/003588410X12518836439326. PMC 3025247. PMID 20353638.
  6. ^ Брумель Валерий Николаевич. Биографическая справка. Р-Спорт. РИА Новости (RIA Novosti; in Russian)
  7. ^ Peter Bizer. Kleiner Mann, ganz groß. Der Stern, 27.10.1983 (in German).
  8. ^ "Small Bone Innovations, Inc. Extends its Exclusive Training Agreement with Russian Ilizarov Scientific Center for an Additional 5 Years". China Weekly News. 17 August 2010. Archived from the original on 28 March 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2012 – via HighBeam.
  9. ^ Wolfgang Saxon (25 July 1992) Dr. Gavril A. Ilizarov Dies at 71; Pioneer Bone Surgeon in Russia. New York Times
  10. ^ "The Ilizarov Centre today". Archived from the original on 1 September 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  11. ^ Beitr. Orthop. Traumatol. 18 (1971), H.2.
  12. ^ J. Hellinger (1973). "Die Behandlung von Pseudarthrosen langer Röhrenknochen mit simultaner Beinverlängerung" (PDF). Zentralblatt für Chirurgie. 98: 1272–1276.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Vladimir Golyakhovsky; Victor H. Frankel (2010). Textbook of Ilizarov Surgical Techniques: Bone Correction and Lengthening: Bone Correction and Lengthening. Jaypee Brothers Publishers. pp. 20–. ISBN 978-81-8448-933-0.
  14. ^ a b c Dror Paley. Historical Vignettes on How the Ilizarov Method Came to the West Archived 2017-08-22 at the Wayback Machine. Limb
  15. ^ a b Svetlana Ilizarov (2006). "The Ilizarov Method: History and Scope". In S. Robert Rozbruch; Svetlana Ilizarov (eds.). Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction Surgery. CRC Press. pp. 15–16. ISBN 0-8493-4051-9.
  16. ^ Association for the Study and Application of the Methods of Ilizarov (ASAMI)
  17. ^ ILIZAROV by MEDICALPLASTIC S.R.L. Trademark #73436823
  18. ^ Historical Review. Association for the Study and Application of the Methods of Ilizarov (ASAMI)
  19. ^ Gavriil A. Ilizarov. Transosseous Osteosynthesis. Theoretical and Clinical Aspects of the Regeneration and Growth of Tissue. Translated by Stuart A. Green. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1992, ISBN 3-540-53534-9. New edition 2011, ISBN 978-3-642-84390-7.
  20. ^ Christian Jürgens; Hergo Schmidt; U. Schümann; B. Fink (1992). "Der Ilisarow-Ringfixateur und seine technische Anwendung". Der Unfallchirurg. 95: 529–533.
  21. ^ H. R. Kortmann, M. Papenhagen (1992). "Die Frakturbehandlung des Femurs mit dem Ilisarow-Fixateur". Der Unfallchirurg. 95: 534–536.
  22. ^ Klaus Seide, Dietmar Wolter (1996). "Universelle dreidimensionale Korrektur und Reposition mit dem Ringfixateur unter Anwendung der Hexapod-Anordnung". Der Unfallchirurg. 99: 422–424.
  23. ^ M. Wurm; A. Stütz; U. Kinkelin; H.G.K. Schmidt; Ch. Jürgens (2003). "Komplikationsanalyse nach Anwendung des Ringfixateurs nach Ilisarow bei Verlängerungen an der unteren Extremität". Trauma und Berufskrankheit. 5: 271.
  24. ^ U.-J. Gerlach; K. Seide; N. Weinrich; R. Wendlandt; Hergo Schmidt (2007). "Segmenttransport". Trauma und Berufskrankheit. 9 (2): 117–121. doi:10.1007/s10039-007-1224-5.
  25. ^ C. Grimme; R. Schoop; U.-J. Gerlach (2010). "Biologischer Defektaufbau". Trauma und Berufskrankheit. 12 (Supplement 1): 42–50. doi:10.1007/s10039-009-1506-1. S2CID 23024818.
  26. ^ a b Илизаров Гавриил Абрамович. Russian Academy of Sciences (in Russian)
  27. ^ Анатолий Свешников. Основные закономерности изменения минеральной плотности костей скелета после травм и уравнивания длины конечностей методом чрезкостного остеосинтеза. Глава 1[permanent dead link]. Издательство "Академия Естествознания", 2012 (in Russian).
  28. ^ Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov (1921–1992) Archived 2015-01-05 at the Wayback Machine. Russian Ilizarov Scientific Center for Restorative Traumatology and Orthopaedics
  29. ^ K. Tayurskaya and N. Osipova. Social Hero. Ilizarov Gavriil Abramovich. iEARN Global Learning Circles, 2011
  30. ^ Ilizarov Dott. Gavril Abramovich. Commendatore Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana. Site of the President of Italy (in Italian)
  31. ^ Awardees of the Robert Danis Prize Archived 2014-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
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Gavriil Ilizarov
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