Sir Ludwig Guttmann: his neurology research and his role in the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries, 1939–1944

Ludwig Guttmann spent five crucial years in Oxford between 1939 and 1944, carrying out fundamental research in peripheral nerve regeneration and the rehabilitation of patients with peripheral nerve injuries. He worked with Peter Medawar, John Zachary Young, Graham Weddell, Ernst Gutmann and  others. He dismissed this period of his life, but the experience he gained was critical for his subsequent career in rehabilitating spinal injury patients.

Keywords Ludwig Guttmann, peripheral nerve injuries, St Hugh’s Hospital,  spinal injuries

The specialty of spinal injuries in the UK

At the outset of the Second World War, spinal units were established in the UK, but they were little more than hospitals where patients with spinal injuries were received. The treatment was deplorable, with patients typically suffering from pressure sores and renal sepsis. In the south of England, a spinal unit was not established until the appointment in 1944 of Ludwig Guttmann, who was trained in rehabilitation, neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry and research. Guttmann devoted himself single-handedly to the care of his patients, turning and catheterising them himself.