Medical Practice

The rise and fall of surgery for the “floating” kidney

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 17 March 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:845
  1. Douglas L McWhinnie,
  2. David N H Hamilton


    The latter half of the nineteenth century produced a remarkable expansion of surgical practice. Although most of these new techniques and concepts were soundly based, others, such as the movable or floating kidney, were later ridiculed and discredited.

    In Glasgow Royal Infirmary during the 48 years from 1880, when movable kidney was first mentioned in the annual reports of the hospital, to 1928 472 patients (89% female) were diagnosed as suffering from the condition. Nearly half of them (216) underwent operation and the operative mortality was low. In the first decade of this century an average of 18 cases a year were admitted to the wards of the infirmary. From 1915 to 1920 the number of cases dropped, as did the proportion undergoing operation, but in the 1920s the numbers increased again.

    In common with other ineffective treatments for imaginary diseases, operations for the movable kidney simply faded away in Britain in the 1930s.

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