Hugo Krayenbühl

1966, San Juan

Neurological surgery as it exists in Switzerland today owes its high level of competence to its founder, Professor Hugo A. Krayenbühl. Coming to neurosurgery from a background of neurology, surgery, and psychiatry, he was the only holder of the professorship in neurosurgery at the University of Zürich and was the head of the neurosurgical service at the University Hospital in Zürich.

The son of a physician, Dr. Krayenbühl was born in Zihlschlacht, Switzerland, on December 3, 1902. After attending the university at St. Gallen, he studied medicine in Geneva, Kiel, Paris, and Zürich. Upon the acceptance of his dissertation, "Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Ewing'schen Knochensarkome," by the University of Zürich in 1928, he became a Doctor of Medicine.

His postgraduate studies led him to pathology, internal medicine, and then to neurology and psychiatry. After receiving his neurological training at the Charité, Berlin, under the outstanding German neurologist, Geheimrat Professor Karl Bonhoeffer, he studied psychiatry under Professor C. Maier at the world-famous Psychiatric University Clinic Burghözli in Zürich. Observing the poor results obtained by European surgeons in treating tumors of the brain, Dr. Krayenbühl became interested in neurosurgery and, in preparation for his entrance into this new field, he took several months of training in general surgery in Zürich.

From 1934 to 1936, Dr. Krayenbfihl worked in London under Sir Hugh Cairns, the eminent pupil of Harvey Cushing. Through Dr. Cairns he became familiar with the techniques of Dr. Cushing and the traditions of the Cushing school. Because of the influence of Dr. Cairns, Professor Krayenbühl remained deeply attached to British neurology and neurosurgery.

Upon his return to Zürich in 1936, Dr. Krayenbühl was given the opportunity to work at the University Clinic and to build his own department of neurosurgery. The Kanton Zürich offered the necessary accommodations, but only on the condition that Dr. Krayenbühl himself provide table, lighting, instruments, and an x-ray unit for the operating theater. The first operation took place on July 13, 1936. From these small beginnings, the Clinic grew, and, through his devotion, efficiency, and high standards, Dr. Krayenbühl became known as the leading neurosurgeon in Switzerland. In 1939 the Clinic was officially recognized as an independent unit, and in 1948 Professor Krayenbühl was given the first chair of neurosurgery in Switzerland by the University of Zürich.In 1966, his neurosurgical Clinic had 76 beds, between 1,800 and 1,900 admissions each year, and 16 clinical assistants. OnMay 23, 1966, the 20,000th operation took place.

In addition to his devotion to his patients and to the Clinic, Professor Krayenbühl was deeply concerned with the teaching of students and the training of neurosurgeons working at his Clinic. In Switzerland, the directors of the neurosurgical university clinics of Basel, Geneva, and Lausanne, of the neurological university clinics of Basel and Berne, and of the encephalographic department at Lausanne are his former pupils. Many distinguished neurosurgeons from other countries also took their specialized training under him.

Through his research and publications, Dr. Krayenbühl made valuable contributions to the field of neurosurgery. Since 1941, when his "Habilitationsschrift" on the aneurysm of the brain was published, he was concerned with disturbances of cerebral circulation. He published important papers on cerebral venous, carotid, and vertebral thrombosis and on spasms of the cerebral arteries. His endeavors in the field of diagnostic and therapeutic problems of aneurysms of the brain culminated in the publication of The Cerebral Angiography in 1965 with M. G. Yasargil. The total number of his published books and papers exceeded 150 in 1966.

Professor Krayenbühl drew strength and support for his manifold activities from the lively circle of his family. Since 1933 he was married to Elsa Gross, L.D. They had one daughter and three sons. His understanding, amiable, and wise wife shared with him a love for music, modern painting, and sculpture which counterbalanced the strain of his professional duties. Intuitive, far seeing, decisive, and with a joy in the precision of his skill, Dr. Krayenbühl himself was, indeed, a rare combination of the artist and craftsman.

The power of his single-minded concentration on so many activities brought Dr. Krayenbühl well deserved recognition and honor. He was an honorary member or fellow of many European and American neurological and neurosurgical societies. He was the president of the First European Congress for Neurosurgery, which was held in Zurich in 1959. In 1966, Professor Krayenbühl was 64 years old and was full of youthful energy, vividly responding to new ideas, planning ahead for the future of his clinic and of the University. Dr. Hugo Krayenbühl died in 1985.