R.E. Abdel-Halim

Urology Unit, King Abdul.Aziz University Hospital, Jeddah / Saudi Arabia




The Third Congress of The International Society of Urologic Endoscopy together with World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Collaborating Centre For Urinary  Bladder And Prostatic Cancer and with European Organization  Of Research On The Treatment Of Cancer (E. O. R. T. C.) Genito-Urinary Tract Cancer Cooperative  Group.


August 26- 30,1984

Centre Of Physics , University Of  Karlsruhe


Federal Republic Of Germany


President                          E. Matouscheck, Karlsruhe

W.H.O. Director               F. Edsmyr , Stockholm

E. 0. R. T. C. /GU-Group Chairman

                              L. Denis, Antwerpen

Local Secretary                R.-D. Huber, Karlsruhe

Scientific Program           E. Matouscheck, Karlsruhe

M. A. Reuter, Karlsurhe


Publisher                         Baden Baden, bua-Verlag,

Werner Steinbruck (1985), pp 474-476





Lithotripsy is looked upon as one of the modern discoveries. However, in this paper  we will trace the idea back to its roots and review its progress with the subsequent modification of the intstruments used until it attained its modern shape.


The idea of Lithotripsy lives too exclusively in the contemplation of the so-called modern discoveries. Therefore, in this paper we will try to follow the idea back to its roots.

Cumston (1968) attributes the silence of all Greek medical literature as to the technique of Lithotomy to Hippocrate's teaching of avoiding cystotomy. This doctrine according to Dimopolous et al (1980) lasted several centuries after his death.

Therefore, though the technique of Ammonius (200 B.C) for splitting a large stone through a perineal cystotomy by using a scoop, chisel and hammer was described only by Celsus (50A.D,), it may be considered as the earliest trial for crushing a stone.

Celsus recommended it. However, it seems that the idea was not popular as Charaka, Antyllus and Susruta up till the fourth century advised against breaking a stone or even scratching it and Paulus in the seventh century who is looked upon as summed up all medical knowledge accumulated up to his time, did not mention a word about splitting a large stone.

From the ninth to the fourteenth century according to Cumston (1968), Margotta (1968), Bickers (1969) and Desnos (1972), in Europe the Graeco-Roman medicine came to an end and no progress was made in medical science. However, in the East, Dickinson (1875), Cumson (1968) and Kirkup (1981) stated that with the firm establishment of the Muslem supremacy, the study of medicine along with other branches of science revived and acquired a scientific nature.

In accordance with this, AI Razi who lived between 841-926 A.D. described in full details a new technique for breaking a large stone, in the tenth volume of his twenty three volumes book, "The Continens”, which represents his principal contribution to medicine. He used a strong pincer to hold firmly on a part of the stone made to protrude through a perineal cystotomy and break it away. The process was repeated at different angles until the stone is small enough to come out.

AI Razi's technique was not only an advance on classical procedures as shown by Adams (1846) in his chronological review of lithotomy, but also a landmark in the process of crushing a stone.

Afterwards, Albucasis, who lived between 930-1013 A.D. carried Al Razi's originality further by designing a special forceps, AI Kalalib, by which he could grasp firmly on a stone through a perineal cystotomy and with manual compression break it into fragments. Therefore, Kirkup (1981) described Albucasis forceps as the primitive lithotrite.

On the other hand, unlike Celsus, Paulus and AI Razi, in the case of impacted urethral stone, Albucasis designed a fine drill AI Mishaab.. He revolves it gently upon the stone, perforating it until piercing it through to the other side, then by

the other hand outside the penis, squeeze the remnants which will be washed out by the urine.

Cumston (1981), Spink and Lewis (1973) and El- Faquih and Wallace (1978) admitted that Albucasis' device represents the foundation of true Lithotripsy.

In fact, Cumston (1968), Desnos (1972), Spink and Lewis (1973), Campbell (1974), Ullmann (1978) and Montagnani (1983), stated that Albucasis was not a mere compiler but rather a skillful surgeon who completely integrated surgery into scientific medicine and his thirty volumes book AI Tasrif was translated to Latin and greatly influenced the European medieval schools of medicine well into the eighteenth century.

However, in Europe, the nineteenth century as Ellis ( 1969) and Desnos (1972) stated, opened a period of ingenuity on the part of surgeons and surgical instrument makers.

Therefore, by the notion of getting at the stone while actually within the bladder, Albucasis' idea of drilling by AI Mishaab which was introduced to the bladder along a metal canula was the foundation of the Litholepte of Fournier de Lempdes (1812), the instrument of Gruithuisen (1813), Civiale's trilabe (1818), Leroy d'Etoilles' curved trilabe (1827) and the Brise Coque of Rigal de Jaillac (1829) (Fig. 1). They differed only in their mode of stone fixation.

Then the final modification to Albucasis' idea of drilling was in the replacement of AI Mishaab with a rotating burr as in Leroy d'Etoilles Lithoprione (1822) and Civiale's Lithontripteur (1823).

On the other hand. AIbucasis' idea of Lithotrity was taken further. The Lithotrite introduced by Andreas a Cruce, in the early eighteenth century, was in fact, a modification of AIbucasis lithotrite in which the manual compression on the handle was replaced by a screw action (Fig. 2).

In 1822, Amussat took the idea further by applying it transurethrally instead of through a perineal cystotomy.

By 1832 Albucasis' principle of a pair of jointed serrated blades to crush was replaced by the modem principle of parallel blades, first advocated by Heurteloup in his percussion lithotrite. Then the percussion was replaced by a sucessful screw action by 1834. Then further efforts were directed towards the most efficient evacuation of fragments and by 1878, according to Desnos (1972), Lithotripsy was recognized as a valuable and safe surgical operation.

In conclusion, as Littre pointed out, "There is nothing in the most advanced contemporary medicine whose embryo cannot be found in the medicine of the past".




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