Famous Patients, Famous Operations, 2005 - Part 2: The Case of the Elderly Jurist With Recurrent Suprapubic Pain

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


April 07, 2005


The patient was a 76-year-old man who was a jurist with a chief complaint of painful urination.

Present Illness: The patient complained of a colicky pain in his lower abdomen. Walking or any sudden motion was painful, and when traveling he was only comfortable when seated on a specially designed soft cushion. The patient's physician diagnosed the problem as bladder stones and urged consultation with a specialist. The patient delayed seeking consultation for several months, during which time his symptoms persisted.

Past History: Throughout his life, the patient had been remarkably healthy. At age 57 he fractured his collar bone in a vehicular accident. Up until the year before his present illness, the patient walked 3 miles each way to and from his work.

Family History: The patient was the oldest child in a family that included 8 girls and 6 boys. There were no known familial diseases.

Social History: The patient consumed alcohol but did not smoke cigarettes.

Disease Course: The patient finally consulted a surgeon who recommended an operation that was performed about 2 weeks after the initial consultation. The patient made a complete recovery, returned to work, and lived 4 additional years, without any recurrence of symptoms. An autopsy was performed at the patient's death.

Who was the patient?

  1. Melvin Belli

  2. Johnnie Cochrane

  3. John Marshall

  4. Oliver Wendell Holmes

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What operation was performed?

  1. Removal of bladder calculi

  2. Prostatectomy

  3. Dilatation of urethral stricture

  4. Radical cystectomy for bladder cancer

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Who was the surgeon?

  1. Ambrose Pare

  2. John Hunter

  3. John B. Murphy

  4. Philip Syng Physick

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How was the operation performed?

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What were the autopsy findings?

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What other famous early American politicians suffered from bladder stones?

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What do we know about the health of the 15 chief justices of the Supreme Court?

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Has the frequency of bladder stones changed since the 19th century?

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