Impaled by comparison

The picture on the left is a famous 1550 portrait of the Hungarian nobleman Gregor Baci who was impaled through the head by a lance.

It was never known whether the picture had been exaggerated. Recently, a medical team from Austria reported a remarkably similar case in The Lancet where the patient survived and recovered with no ill effects. The CT scan of this modern-day Gregor Baci is visible on the right.

Although case reports of trauma describe single events only, they can contain very useful scientific information for applied surgery. The portrait of Gregor Baci from the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria (figure A) provokes the question: is the legend that Baci survived a piercing injury with a lance only a myth, or does medical fact indicate that such severe impalement of the head and neck can be survived? We were able to provide the answer, when a similar case of impalement presented to us.

The patient, a craftsman, was injured when a metal bar fell from the ceiling of a church with an altitude of about 14 m, impaling his head in an anterior-posterior direction (figure B)…

The patient had to undergo surgical treatment twice, and had a year of episodes with headache and moderate diplopia, but now, about 5 years after the accident, the patient does not show any related clinical symptoms…


Link to DOI entry for brief Lancet case report.

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