November 24, 1861|
Bad Arolsen, Waldeck-Frankenberg, Kassel, Electorate of Hesse, Kingdom of Prussia
|Died||March 12, 1949
Sauen, Brandenburg, Germany
|Institutions||University of Greifswald,
University of Bonn,
Charité - Universitätsmedizin
|Known for||spinal anesthesia, intravenous regional anesthesia|
|Influences||Friedrich von Esmarch, William Stewart Halsted, Karl Koller, Heinrich Quincke, Carl Ludwig Schleich, Rudolf Virchow|
|Notable awards||Geheimrat, Eagle Shield of the German Reich, German National Prize for Art and Science|
August Karl Gustav Bier (24 November 1861 – 12 March 1949) was a German surgeon. He was the first to perform spinal anesthesia and intravenous regional anesthesia. After professorships in Greifswald and Bonn, Bier became Geheimrat Professor of Surgery and Chief Surgeon at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin in Berlin.
Spinal anesthesia 
On 16 August 1898, Bier performed the first operation under spinal anesthesia at the Royal Surgical Hospital of the University of Kiel. The subject was scheduled to undergo segmental resection of his left ankle, which was severely infected with tuberculosis, but he dreaded the prospect of general anesthesia because he had suffered severe adverse side effects during multiple previous operations. Therefore, Bier suggested "cocainization" of the spinal cord as an alternative to general anesthesia. Bier injected 15 mg of cocaine intrathecally, which was sufficient to allow him to perform the operation. The subject was fully conscious during the operation, but felt no pain. Two hours after the operation, the subject complained of nausea, vomiting, severe headache, and pain in his back and ankle. The vomiting, back and leg pain improved by the following day, but the headache was still present. Bier performed spinal anesthetics on five more subjects for lower extremity surgery, using a similar technique and achieving similar results.
After this series of six subjects, Bier was to receive a spinal anesthetic administered by his assistant, August Hildebrandt. Unfortunately, although Hildebrandt placed the spinal needle correctly, with cerebrospinal fluid flowing freely from it, the syringe was only then discovered to not fit into the hub of the needle. During the efforts to fit the syringe into the hub of the needle, a great deal of cerebrospinal fluid escaped, most of the cocaine to be injected was lost, and the spinal anesthetic was consequently a complete failure. After this experiment — and later that same evening — Bier performed a cocaine spinal anesthetic on Hildebrandt. After the injection, Hildebrandt was temporarily unable to move or feel any sensation in his legs. The profound analgesia of his legs was demonstrated with repeated kicks to his shins, which however, soon regained their sensation. Later that evening, they celebrated their success with wine and cigars. Like all of Bier's previous experimental subjects, Bier and Hildebrandt both experienced severe post-spinal headaches. Hildebrandt's symptoms lasted about four days, while Bier remained confined to bed for nine days.
Intravenous regional anesthesia 
In 1908, Bier pioneered the use of intravenous regional anesthesia, a technique which is commonly referred to as a "Bier block". This technique is frequently used for operations of brief duration upon the hand, wrist, and forearm. It can also be used for operations of brief duration upon the foot, ankle, and leg.
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin 
In 1903 he joined the faculty of the University of Bonn as a full professor, where he taught until 1907. Then he went to Berlin, where he was appointed Geheimrat Professor of Surgery and Chief Surgeon at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin. Bier was elected President of the German Surgical Society in 1911. Bier treated many important people, such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, family members of Nicholas II of Russia, and Vladimir Lenin.
Although he was arguably the most accomplished surgeon of his time, not all of his operations were successful. Hugo Stinnes (a Business magnate and politician who was among the wealthiest men in the world at that time) died on 10 April 1924, about a month after Bier performed a cholecystectomy on him. On 24 February 1925, Bier performed an appendectomy on Friedrich Ebert, the first President of Germany. Ebert — who had signed the Weimar Constitution into law in 1919 following Germany's defeat in World War I — died of septic shock four days after his appendectomy.
Upon Ebert's death, retired Field Marshal and national hero Paul von Hindenburg was elected as his successor. Hindenburg was among the main proponents of the Dolchstoßlegende ("Stab-in-the-back myth"), and his election as President of Germany is widely viewed as the beginning of the end of the short-lived Weimar Republic. Hindenburg played an important (though probably unintended) role in the Nazi Party's rise to power. When Hindenburg died in office on 2 August 1934, Adolf Hitler declared the office of President vacant and, as "Führer und Reichskanzler (Chancellor of the Reich)", made himself head of state.
Bier was Chief Surgeon at the Charité in Berlin until 1928, when Ferdinand Sauerbruch (1875–1951) assumed the position. Bier remained at the Charité as Professor Emeritus until his retirement in 1932. Ironically, Sauerbruch treated President von Hindenburg when he was dying of lung cancer in 1934.
Sports medicine 
Bier is also considered to be a pioneer in the field of sports medicine, having played a pivotal role in establishing it as a discipline. Along with Arthur Mallwitz (1880–1968), Bier organized the first lectures in sports medicine at the University of Berlin in 1919.
Bier had been director of the Akademie für Sport und Leibeserziehung ("Academy for Exercise and Physical Training") in Berlin. Following Bier's retirement in 1932, Sauerbruch temporarily headed the Academy until 1933, when Karl Gebhardt (1897–1948) was put in charge. In 1933 Gebhardt was appointed director of Hohenlychen Hospital, which became the first sports medicine clinic in Germany and was generously funded by the government. Gebhardt became the first professor of sports medicine in Berlin and in 1933 was appointed to the Deutsche Hochschule für Leibesübungen (German College for Physical Education). Gebhardt expanded on Bier’s methods, adopting an academic approach to sports medicine and awarding degrees.
The title of Geheimrat was bestowed upon Bier by German Emperor Wilhelm II. On 24 November 1936, Bier received the Eagle Shield of the German Reich. On 30 January 1938, Bier became one of only nine people to have received the German National Prize for Art and Science, an award created by Adolf Hitler that year as a replacement for the Nobel Prize, which he had forbidden Germans to accept. The German National Prize for Art and Science is the rarest of all awards given in Nazi Germany, even rarer than the German Order.
See also 
- Bier, A (1899). "Versuche uber cocainisirung des ruckenmarkes (Experiments on the cocainization of the spinal cord)". Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Chirurgie (in German) 51: 361–9.
- Bier, A (1908). "Ueber einen neuen weg localanasthesie in den gliedmaassen zu erzeugen (On a new technique to induce local anesthesia in extremities)". Langenbeck's Archiv fur Klinische Chirurgie (in German) 86: 1007–16.
- Bier, A (1909). "Ueber venenanasthesie (On venous anesthesia)". Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift (in German) 46: 477–89.
- Wulf, HFW (1998). "The centennial of spinal anesthesia". Anesthesiology 89 (2): 500–6. doi:10.1097/00000542-199808000-00028. PMID 9710410.
- Little Jr., DM (1962). "Classical file". Survey of Anesthesiology 6 (3): 351. doi:10.1097/00132586-196206000-00068.
- Shrady, George Frederick; Stedman, Thomas Lathrop (1911-01-21). "Fiftieth anniversary of Berlin Medical Society". Medical record: a weekly journal of medicine and surgery 79 (3): 119–20.
- Van Zundert, A; Goerig, M (2000). "August Bier 1861-1949. A tribute to a great surgeon who contributed much to the development of modern anesthesia on the 50th anniversary of his death". Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine 25 (1): 26–33. doi:10.1016/S1098-7339(00)80007-3. PMID 10660237.
- "Hugo Stinnes dead; was one of the world's richest men and German leader". The Lewiston Daily Sun (Lewiston, Maine). Associated Press. 1924-04-11. p. 1,7. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- "German president has appendicitis". The Evening Record (Ellensburg, Washington: Ellensburg Daily Record). Associated Press. 1925-02-24. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Kershaw, I (1998). Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 267. ISBN 0393320359.
- Beamish, R; Ritchie, I (2006). ""Sport", German traditions, and the development of "training"". Fastest, Highest, Strongest: A Critique of High-Performance Sport. New York: Routledge. p. 53. ISBN 978-0415770422.
- Berg, A; König, D (2002). "History of sports medicine in germany with special reference to the university of Freiburg". European Journal of Sport Science 2 (4): 1–7. doi:10.1080/17461390200072402.
- Silver, JR (2011). "Karl Gebhardt (1897–1948): a lost man". Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 41 (4): 366–71. doi:10.4997/JRCPE.2011.417. PMID 22184577.
- Nimmergut, J (2001). Deutsche Orden und Ehrenzeichen bis 1945 (German medals and decorations to 1945) (in German). Band 4: Württemberg II – Deutsches Reich (Volume 4: Württemberg II - German Empire). Munich: Zentralstelle für Wissenschaftliche Ordenskunde. p. 1915. ISBN 3-00-001396-2.
Further reading 
- Goerig, M; Beck, H (1996). "Priority conflict concerning the discovery of lumbar anesthesia between August Bier and August Hildebrandt". Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther (in German) 31 (2): 111–9. doi:10.1055/s-2007-995885. PMID 8652763.
- "This won't hurt a bit," New Scientist, vol 173 issue 2330 - 16 February 2002, page 48.
Media related to August Bier at Wikimedia Commons