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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 182-183

Prof. Emerick Szilagyi: An empiricist vascular surgeon

Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, Director - Indovasc Hospital, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Date of Web Publication29-Aug-2019

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DOI: 10.4103/ijves.ijves_51_19

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How to cite this article:
Shah S. Prof. Emerick Szilagyi: An empiricist vascular surgeon. Indian J Vasc Endovasc Surg 2019;6:182-3

How to cite this URL:
Shah S. Prof. Emerick Szilagyi: An empiricist vascular surgeon. Indian J Vasc Endovasc Surg [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 16];6:182-3. Available from:

It is a privilege to write this historical vignette about a legend, Prof. Emerick Szilagyi, which would encompass his life and scholarly impact in the field of vascular surgery.

Prof. Szilagyi was considered to be a man with a tough demeanor, agile intelligence, intense individuality, disciplined mind, and spartan habits, leaving no room for levity. He had a keen sensitivity to music and voices along with a commanding knowledge of history [Figure 1].
Figure 1: D. Emerick Szilagyi, MD. Courtesy of the Conrad R. LamArchives, Henry Ford Hospital

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He was born in Hungary on June 20, 1910, and attended the Universities of Kolozsvar (Rumania) and Debrecen (Hungary) as well as the Sorbonne (Paris) before immigrating to the United States to join his mother. He was graduated from the University of Michigan and took a job as a junior surgeon at Henry Ford Hospital. He was soon appointed the solo medical officer to the Ford rubber plantation in the Brazilian Amazon jungle during World War II, where he treated every medical condition ranging from cataract to C sections. On his return to Henry Ford Hospital in 1942, he focused his interest on the development of vascular surgery. He eventually established and led a group of vascular surgeons that became a beacon of light for the newly developing specialty of vascular surgery.

Prof. Szilagyi led the Division of Vascular Surgery and chaired the Department of Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, was the president of the National Vascular Society, and was the founding editor of Journal of Vascular Surgery. He laid down the framework of the formal training of vascular surgeons along with his friends Jack Wyilie and Jessie Thompson.

The articles about him and certain incidences from his autobiography – “A Brief Account of the Long Life of D. Emerick Szilagyi” – describe him as a man of discipline and an empiricist scientist. During his time at Henry Ford Hospital, he achieved many accomplishments that made him world renowned in the field of vascular surgery.[1] In 1952, he performed one of the world's first aortic aneurysmal repairs. In 1954, he established the first homograft blood vessel bank for vascular surgery patients in Michigan. In 1958, he performed the first aortic aneurysmal repair on live television. In the 1960s, Dr. Szilagyi performed one of the first abdominal aortic aneurysm resections at the point where the aorta branches into two arteries, a procedure that has saved thousands of lives. His article titled Contribution of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysmectomy to Prolongation of Life is considered one of the best articles in the history of vascular surgery.[2] He also helped to design the Jobst® stockings, which is used to control clotting in the legs. In 1966, he became the Chairman of the Department of Surgery and participated in pioneering numerous vascular surgery developments including the treatment of peripheral occlusive arteriopathy and peripheral congenital arteriovenous fistulas and the use of synthetic grafting materials. In 1968, he created a separate division to treat vascular diseases and participated in the first allogenic kidney transplant in Detroit. In 1971, Dr. Szilagyi participated in one of the first successful arm reattachment surgeries in a 7-year-old girl. He also designed the mechanical angiographic table allowing documenting the progression of dye, an antecessor to the rapid film changers which were developed later. His follow-up was so strong that in case of death of a patient bearing Szilagyi prosthesis, a resident would be dispatched to the funeral home to recover the implant for analysis. The Szilagyi's classification of wound infection is based on relationship to surrounding tissues and is widely followed worldwide.

Although his main interest was in vascular surgery, he also made certain contributions to general surgery such as thyroid and pancreatic surgeries.

Dr. Szilagyi stepped down as the Chairman of the Department of Surgery in 1975, after 36 years of service to the hospital, but continued operating until 1984. Throughout his career, he authored or co-authored more than 170 publications and 250 papers and lectured throughout the world. He served as a president of numerous surgical organizations. He became a consultant and continued to edit the Journal of Vascular Surgery, spending several mornings a week in his office at the Clara Ford Pavilion for more than 20 years after his retirement. Dr. Szilagyi completed his autobiography at the age of 98 as his final contribution to the medical world.

This man will be ever remembered for his tremendous contribution to our field.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Szilagyi DE. A Brief Account of the Long Life of D. Emerick Szilagyi, M.D: June 20, 1910-Present. Evanston, IL: Greenwood Academic; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 1
Szilagyi DE, Smith RF, DeRusso FJ, Elliott JP, Sherrin FW. Contribution of abdominal aortic aneurysmectomy to prolongation of life. Ann Surg 1966;164:678-99.  Back to cited text no. 2


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