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"Viking disease" is a slang term for Dupuytren's disease. Doctors and scientists believe that the condition first appeared among the Vikings. As the Vikings were very keen on traveling they spread the disease to parts of Northern Europe and even as far as Spain, Greece and Italy. The disease is actually common among offspring of immigrants from Northern Europe living in other continents.1

Dupuytren's disease throughout the centuries

1010-820 BC - A excavation of the Egyptian tomb of Monthernhat, found eighteen mummies from this period, and among them, the first case of Dupuytren's disease.2

1100-1300 - A number of ‘miracle cures’ were described in detail in Icelandic sagas. Two of the cases show resemblance to Dupuytren's disease, suggesting that the condition existed among the Vikings.1

1614 - The first medical records of Dupuytren's disease appear in Basel, Switzerland. A doctor called Felix Platter examined the hand of a stonemason whose little finger and ring finger bent into his left palm. Dr Platter left a description of the man's condition in his book.3

1777 - Mr Henry Cline Sr, a British doctor and anatomist realised that Dupuytren’s contracture was caused by the fascia (the band of connective tissue beneath the skin) rather than the tendons, after he dissected two hands with finger contractures.3

1822 - Cline‘s student Astley Cooper, who like Cline practised and lectured in St Guy's and St Thomas’s Hospital, London, UK, wrote a study called ‘A treatise on the dislocations and fractures of loints.' The study included a detailed description of Dupuytren's contracture and a summary of surgical treatment.4,5

1831 - French surgeon and anatomist called Baron Guillaume Dupuytren dissected the hand of a patient who had been suffering from finger contractures, and like Henry Cline, diagnosed the cause of the disease as coming from the fascia. He treated the patient on 12th of June by performing an open fasciotomy, that means cutting through the skin and the fascia. Although some believe that Cline and Cooper discovered the cause of the disease, it is named after Dupuytren who claimed to be the first person to recognise the cause of Dupuytren's disease and to invent a way of treating it.4

The Baron Guillaume Dupuytren (1777–1835)

Sources:

  1. Adrian E. Flatt Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2001 Oct;14(4):378–384.
  2. Garcia-Guixé E, Fontaine V, Baxarias J, et al. Estudio antropológico, paleopatológico y radiológico de las momias localizadas en el almacen número 4 de la casa americana (el Asasif, Luxor, Egypt): proyecto monthemhat 2009. Available from: www.hottopos.com/rih20/garciaguixe.pdf Last accessed 2017-02-09.
  3. Thurston A. J Bone Joint Surg 2003;85-B:469-77.
  4. Thurston A. ANZJ Surg 2003; 73(7): 529-35.
  5. Wilbrand, S. 2002. Dupuytren's contracture – features and consequences. Ada Universitatis Upsaliensis. Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine 1130. 53 pp. Uppsala. ISBN 91-554-5262-0.