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A tribute to Prof. Dr. med. Hans-Joachim Denecke. (In Memoriam).

Heidelberg, Germany October 2, 1911-April 28, 1990

One of the most brilliant surgeons in the history of German otorhinolaryngology--head and neck surgery was, without a doubt, Prof. Dr. med. Hans-Joachim Denecke. We appreciate the opportunity to honor him here.

Prof. Denecke's influence on German ENT surgery is comparable to that brought to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery by the late Dr. John J. Conley. They both had the vision that our specialty would become an important--if not the most important--surgical discipline in the head and neck area, as well as in the diagnostic developments of the function of the five senses and conservative therapy for a large variety of diseases.

Hans-Joachim Denecke was born October 2, 1911, in Prenzlau in the Uckermark, in the eastern part of Germany. He studied medicine at several universities-at Marburg, Freiburg, Berlin, and Greifswald. He completed his medical studies at the University of Greifswald, where he was promoted to doctor of medicine.

Important to his future career were his two-year residency at the pathologic institute of the University of Greifswald under Prof. Loschke and his several years of intensive general surgical training in Prenzlau with Prof. Uhlig, who trained the world-famous German surgeon, Prof. Ferdinand Sauerbruch.

Later he moved to otorhinolaryngology, starting his training at Marburg as an assistant to the well-known Prof. Uffenorde, at a center for paranasal sinus surgery. In 1943 he moved to the ENT department at the University of Heidelberg, where Prof. A. Seiffert, a fellow of the great Prof. Gustav Killian, became his oberarzt. Prof. Seiffert was an excellent teacher and founder of an outstanding surgical school in German otorhinolaryngology. At this time, Prof. Denecke gained a great deal of experience in plastic reconstructive surgery, because Heidelberg was one of the centers for treating injured soldiers of the Second World War.

In 1945, Prof. Denecke became the first younger colleague with the degree of a Dozent (PhD) on the medical faculty of the reopened University of Heidelberg after the war ended. He developed a thermoelectric measurement of the walls of blood vessels, which was useful in diagnosing thrombosis of the sigmoid sinus and jugular vein.

In 1950 he became an associate professor at Heidelberg. For almost 10 years he was senior surgeon in Prof. Seiffert's department and educated many excellent otorhinolaryngologists. He was known as a disciplined and strict teacher.

Prof. Denecke contributed a great deal to the world's medical literature. He became the chief editor of the Zentralblatt fur Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Heilkunde, in which the world literature of otorhinolaryngology was reviewed. By 1990 he had edited more than 100 volumes of this important scientific instrument, all before the era of computers. He was also the coeditor of the Archiv far Ohren-Nasen- und Kehlkopfheilkunde (Archives of Otorhinolaryngology).

At only 37 years of age, Prof. Denecke was asked by the great general surgeons Prof. Zenker and Prof. Guleke, who edited the world-reknowned Martin Kirschner's Allgemeine und spezielle chirurgische Operationslehre (General and Special Surgical Manual) to completely revise the volume Die oto-rhino-laryngologischen Operationen (Otorhinolaryngological Operations). A new edition followed in 1980, published in several volumes and edited by Prof. Denecke with Prof. Werner Ey: Die Operationen an der Nase und im Nasopharynx (Operations of the Nose and Nasopharynx). Prof. Denecke also edited Operationen an den Nasennebenhohlen und der angrenzenden Schadelbasis (Operations of the Paranasal Sinuses and the Adjacent Skull Base) and Die otorhinolaryngologischen Operationen im Mund- und Halsbereich (Otorhinolaryngological Operations of the Oral Cavity and the Neck), in collaboration with his wife, Dr. U.-M. Denecke, and with the authors of this tribute.

In 1964, in cooperation with Prof. Rudolphe Meyer of Switzerland, he published Die plastischen Operationen am Kopf und Hals, Band I Nasenplastik. This book was also edited in English as Plastic Surgery of the Head and Neck, Volume 1: Rhinoplasty, which advanced otorhinolaryngologic plastic and reconstructive surgery in Europe.

Prof. Denecke published more than 125 papers, most of them dealing with special surgical problems and the importance of cooperating with the other disciplines. Already in the early 1960s, he was a master of functional and reconstructive surgery of laryngeal carcinoma. Very early on, he emphasized the different types of partial resection of the larynx in cases of neoplasm. He deserves great credit for developing techniques to reconstruct the larynx and trachea in cases of stenosis. Another important target in his surgical work was the rehabilitation of swallowing and improvement of the voice in cases of paralysis of caudal cranial nerves, particularly of the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves.

Prof. Denecke was a pioneer in the field of tumor surgery of the lateral skull base, especially in the difficult surgery of extended chemodectomas of the petrous pyramid and the jugular glomus. In 1962, and later in 1968, he was asked to publish for the 33rd and 39th Annual Meetings of the German Society of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery an extensive overview of surgery for stenosis and atresia of the upper air and digestive tract, and of face and neck traumatology.

For his achievements in furthering the development of plastic surgery of otorhinolaryngology, and in organizing the Zentralblatt fur Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Heilkunde, Prof. Denecke was honored with the prestigious Ludwig-Haymann-Award by the German Society of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. He became an honorary member of this society, of the Austrian Society of Otolaryngology, and of the German Society for Plastic Reconstructive Surgery. He was fellow of the American Academy of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and corresponding member of the board of the German Society of Otorhinolaryngology and was always present at their annual meetings. Because of his vast expertise and outstanding knowledge of the scientific literature, he enriched so many meetings with his remarks and was sometimes feared by underqualified speakers.

Prof. Denecke was one of the senior surgeons of the historically significant courses on plastic surgery, organized for the first time in Germany by Prof. Horst Ludwig Wullstein in cooperation with the American Academy of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. These courses have been the practical starting point for integrating plastic and reconstructive surgery into German otolaryngology and have been a keystone in the practical and scientific exchange between German plastic surgeons and their American colleagues. The courses also influenced the foundation of the European Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery (Joseph Society), initiated in 1977 by Prof. Dr. Claus Walter and Dr. Tony Bull. A series of seven national and international courses in plastic reconstructive surgery in Wurzburg followed, organized by Prof. Dr. W. Kley and Prof. Dr. med. E. Haas. Prof. Denecke participated and had great influence in all these courses.

Having had the great opportunity to cooperate with him for the surgical manual and at many meetings, we must state that he was a surgical genius, focusing always on the individual pathologic anatomy and constantly modifying surgical techniques.

Prof. Dr. med. Hans-Joachim Denecke was an idol for several generations of surgeons. He was an extremely reliable mentor to his younger colleagues and students. He was an institution and an unforgettable man in German otorhinolaryngology and head and neck surgery.
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Article Details
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Author:Ey, Dr. Werner
Publication:Ear, Nose and Throat Journal
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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