Dominique-Jean Larrey
1766 - 1842

'The worthiest man I have ever met' - Napoleon

1766
Born July 8, 1766

Studied medicine under his uncle's tutelage in Toulouse.

1786
Moved to Paris to complete studies under Desault, chief of surgey at the Hotel de Dieu. Joined French Navy and becaume chief surgeon to the frigate 'Vigilante' on its voyago to North America. Only one man died during the entire voyage.

Subsequently had to resign from the Navy due to chronic seasickness.

1792
War breaks out.
Doctor to the French army in the Rhine (Major of the Army of the Rhine).

1797
Italian Campaign
Designed the Ambulance Volante or 'flying ambulances' to evacuate casualties from the battlefield.


Ambulance Volante

The flying ambulances were horse drawn wagons for collecting and carrying the wounded from the battlefield to base hospitals. He described this concept in minute detail in a report from the Italian Campaign of 1797. It consisted of a system of transport of medical supplies and supporting personnel. The personnel included a doctor, quartermaster, noncommissioned officer, a drummer boy (who carried the bandages), and 24 infantrymen. The flying ambulances were a success, and this idea was subsequently taken up by other armies. Even in the harsh desert terrain, his flying ambulances would collect the wounded in less than 15 minutes.

Larrey was soon organizing flying ambulances for the entire French Army. This transport system served not only as a boost in morale for the rank and file officers of the French Revolutionary Armies, but it also effected a greater and realistic opportunity for the treatment and survival of the wounded. Moreover, his attention to the wounded on both sides of the battlefield was a noble concept for which Larrey should be credited. These revolutionary ideas for the care of the wounded survived to modern times in the form of the Red Cross.

Triage
Was the first surgeon to treat battlefield casualties where they were injured, rather than awaiting for the finish of the battle at the end of the day, and also introduced the first descriptions of triage:

'The best plan that can be adopted in such emergencies, to prevent the evil consequences of leaving soldiers who are severely wounded without assistance, is to place the ambulances as near as possible to the line of the battle, and to establish headquarters, to which all the wounded, who require delicate operations, shall be collected to be operated upon by the surgeon-general. Those who are dangerously wounded should receive the first attention, without regard to rank or distinction. They who are injured in a less degree may wait until their brethren-in-arms, who are badly mutilated, have been operated and dressed, otherwise the latter would not survive many hours; rarely until the succeesing day. Besides with a slight wound, it is easy to repair to the hospital of the first or second line, especially for the officers who generally have means of transportation. Finally, life is not endangered by such wounds.

Became Professor of Surgery at Val-de-Grace medical school.

Accompanied Napoleon on his expeditions to Egypt, Palestine and Syria.

1803
Performed one of the earlies amputations about the hip.

1805
Appointed Surgeon-in-Chief to the French Army

Accompanied Napoleon to Germany, Poland and Moscow

1808
Spanish campaign
During the war in Spain the Spanish made extensive use of land mines on the roads of retreat. Larrey had extensive opportunity to study lower limb injuries and amputations.

1809
Battle of Ratisbon


Larrey tending to Napoleon
Battle of Ratisbon (Regensburg), Bavaria

1810
Made a Baron by Napoleon

1812
Reportedly he performed 200 amputations within a 24-hour period after the Battle of Borodino.
Larrey was the darling of the common soldier and they looked after him during the dreadful retreat from Russia. At the crossing of the Beresina, where thousands died in the panic-stricken struggle to get over the bridge, French troops passed him over their heads the length of the span to safety.

Published first description of trench foot.

1815
Battle of Waterloo
Larrey's courage was even noticed at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington who, noticing Larrey tending injured men in a dangerously exposed position, saluted a man 'of an age no longer ours'.

Shot and left for dead.
Captured by the Prussians and sentenced to deathm but was recognised by a German physician who had been his student at Val-de-Grace. He pleased for Larrey's life with Prussian Field Marshall, Gerhard Blucher. Blucher's son had been wounded and captured by the French - and his life had been saved by Larrey. Larrey was freed and given safe passage to Belgium.

1812-1817
Published 4 volumes entitled: Memoires de chirurgie militarie et campagnes.

1829
First successful pericardiocentesis for trauma
Cardiac tamponade secondary to penetrating cardiac wound

1842
Died August 1st, Paris