Intended for healthcare professionals


Frank Bernard Cockett

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 12 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3019
  1. Sophie Arie, London

Vascular surgeon who operated while bombs fell on St Thomas’ hospital

As a young surgeon arriving at St Thomas’ Hospital after the second world war, Frank Cockett was put in charge of the leg ulcer clinic which, a friend and colleague explains, was “thought by his seniors to be a non-exciting clinic dealing with a non-exciting condition, the cause of which was poorly understood.” He threw himself into it and made several major breakthroughs, becoming an international authority on venous disease.

“As a junior surgeon I took over the leg ulcer clinic in 1949, and for the first time I saw what an enormous unsolved problem there was. Of course all were called varicose ulcers, but most of them had no varicose veins,” he wrote in a 10 volume autobiography compiled for his family.

In 1953—after carrying out numerous cadaver limb dissections and investigations on his patients, using the new technique of arterial and venous injections—he established that lower leg ulcers were caused not by varicose veins but by incompetent ankle perforating veins.

He published a groundbreaking paper in the Lancet, describing his research and identifying …

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