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A-1279
2003
Gaston Labat’s Regional Anesthesia: The Missing Years
Claude A. Vachon, M.D., Douglas R. Bacon, M.D., M.A., Steven H. Rose, M.D.
Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, United States.
Gaston Labat’s textbook Regional Anesthesia: Its Technique and Clinical Application was first published in 1922. The book went through several printings of the first edition which sold out. A second edition was published in 1928. At the time of his death in 1934, Labat was known to be working on a third edition. It has long been a mystery why no further editions appeared after his death. Although many people have speculated on the reasons¹, the complete story has remained a mystery.

Communications between Dr. Labat’s widow, Marie Louise Labat, and Dr. John S. Lundy of the Mayo Clinic, demonstrate that in 1939 she requested Dr. Lundy finish the revision. The letters show material for the third edition, including notes and new figures, was actually in Dr. Lundy’s possession for a brief period. However, Dr. Lundy seemed to lack enthusiasm for the project and effectively put an end to his involvement.²

In 1949, Thomas Nelson & Sons wrote Lundy expressing an interest in reprinting Labat’s classic text, and requested contact information for Labat’s family. Lundy’s reply is surprising, stating he had only one encounter with Dr. Labat in his life and had no idea how to find his widow. Lundy further stated Dr. E.A. Rovenstine was in touch with Saunders in an attempt to get Labat’s book reprinted. However, "Since Saunders were [sic] interested in my book, Clinical Anesthesia, they were not interested in Doctor Labat’s Regional Anesthesia." Lundy goes on to say he believes Dr. Rovenstine has permission from Labat’s widow to sign a contract with them.²

In 1957 Dr. John Adriani was approached by Saunders and asked to rewrite and revise the manuscript. Saunders was unable to find any heirs of Labat to obtain permission for a revision of the text, and correspondence between Dr. Adriani and W.B. Saunders provides no record of the revision begun by Labat.³, The third edition was finally published in 1967. What happened to the text in the years between Labat’s death and 1957 when Dr. Adriani was approached? In the preface to the third edition, Dr. Adriani states his former teacher, Dr. Emery Rovenstine, confided in him 30 years earlier that he was arranging with Dr. Labat’s widow to complete the revision. However, difficulties were encountered, the specifics of which are unknown, and the project was never completed.4

Although the mystery of the missing years is not completely elucidated, we have uncovered a valuable piece of the puzzle. It seems unlikely Dr. Lundy was Mrs. Labat’s first choice to finish the revision. Dr. Rovenstine was a more likely candidate. However, for reasons unknown, the project came to Dr. Lundy in 1939. The fate of the material Dr. Labat used for his revision remains a mystery, as does the reason for the 30 year lapse between editions.

References

1. Brown DL. Winnie AP. Biography of Louis Gaston Labat, M.D. Regional Anesthesia. 17(5):249-62, 1992 Sep-Oct.

2. Various letters 1939, and 1949. The Collected Papers of John S. Lundy, Mayo Clinic Foundation Archives, Rochester, MN

3. Adriani, John. John Adriani papers. 1925-1988. Located in: Modern Manuscripts Collection, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD.; MS C 453

4. Adriani J, Labat's regional anesthesia; techniques and clinical applications, 3rd edition, Philadelphia, Saunders, 1967.

Anesthesiology 2003; 99: A1279