Is Crohn's Disease a Rightly Used Eponym?
Van Hootegem P., Travis S.
In 1932 Burrill B. Crohn, a gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, described, together with two surgical colleagues, a series of 14 patients with an inflammatory condition of the terminal ileum. All patients were operated on by Dr Albert Berg, the Chief Surgeon of the hospital, whose name did not appear on the initial publication. The 'new' disease was called 'regional ileitis', but was rapidly referred to as 'Crohn's disease'. From earlier accounts and publications it has become clear that the condition had already existed for many centuries and was 'discovered' several times before 1932, most notably by Giovanni Morgagni in 1769, Antoni Lesniowski in 1903 and Thomas K. Dalziel in 1913. 'Crohn's disease' might reasonably be known by another eponym. Nevertheless, the 1932 publication of Crohn was pivotal, as were his later contributions to the knowledge of 'his' disease. Therefore the worldwide use of the eponym is rightly to be continued. Present researchers and clinicians with an interest in inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] might learn from the complicated story summarised in this contribution. Apart from an interesting historical overview, there are some lessons for today: the importance of thorough clinical observation and pattern recognition, the need for communication between colleagues and multidisciplinary approaches, and the need for broad access to valuable data, past or present, regardless of the journal or language of publication. It should ultimately bring us some humility, despite great achievements in treating this chronic disease, which defies all our efforts yet to find a cure.