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JR Silver
Journal Issue: 
Volume 39: Issue 1: 2009




At the outset of the Second World War, spinal units were established in  the  UK,  but  they  were  little  more  than  hospitals  where  patients  with  spinal injuries  were  received.  The  treatment  was  deplorable,  with  patients  typically suffering from pressure sores and renal sepsis. In the south of England, a spinal unit was not established until the appointment in 1944 of Ludwig Guttmann, who was  trained  in  rehabilitation,  neurology,  neurosurgery,  psychiatry  and  research. Guttmann devoted himself single-handedly to the care of his patients, turning and catheterising  them  himself. Within  six  months,  he  demonstrated  that  he  could cure  their  sores  and  discharge  them  to  a  meaningful  life.  Recognition  followed immediately,  and  doctors  came  from  other  units  to  learn  Guttmann’s  methods and set up rehabilitation centres for spinal patients in the UK.