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The Case of Robert Penman

When Robert Penman was 16, he was presented to a local surgeon with an egg sized tumour in his lower jaw. The teeth that were connected to the lower were removed and the over time the growth grew rapidly. The tumour was then cut off from the bone at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, however it continued to grow, and as such would not heal. 5 years later when Penman was 24 years old, James Syme was approached to assess and operate on the tumour. In 1828, Syme removed a 72oz tumour from the lower jaw of Penman. The procedure was carried out without anaesthesia in 24 minutes, while Penman sat upright in a chair. The Penman operation is a significant example of Syme’s extraordinary skill as a surgical pioneer. The case was well documented by Syme, and a preoperative portrait, postoperative photo and an addiitonal preoperative cast are also held in the Museum collections.

The Case of Robert Penman
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