What is the historical importance of Fournier gangrene?

Updated: Jun 03, 2021
  • Author: Vernon M Pais, Jr, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Answer

In 1764, Baurienne originally described an idiopathic, rapidly progressive soft-tissue necrotizing process that led to gangrene of the male genitalia. However, the disease was named after Jean-Alfred Fournier, a Parisian venereologist, on the basis of a transcript from an 1883 clinical lecture in which Fournier presented a case of perineal gangrene in an otherwise healthy young man, adding this to a compiled series of 4 additional cases. [6] He differentiated these cases from perineal gangrene associated with diabetes, alcoholism, or known urogenital trauma, although these are currently recognized risk factors for the perineal gangrene now associated with his name.

This manuscript outlining Fournier’s initial series of fulminant perineal gangrene provides a fascinating insight into both the societal background and the practice of medicine at the time. In anecdotes, Fournier described recognized causes of perineal gangrene, including placement of a mistress’ ring around the phallus, ligation of the prepuce (used in an attempt to control enuresis or as an attempted birth control technique practiced by an adulterous man to avoid impregnating his married lover), placement of foreign bodies such as beans within the urethra, and excessive intercourse in diabetic and alcoholic persons. He calls upon physicians to be steadfast in obtaining confession from patients of “obscene practices.”


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