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[Reconstruction of the examination of the laryngeal carcinoma of Emperor Frederick III by Rudolf Virchow].

  • Hussein, K1
  • Panning, B2
  • 1 Institut für Pathologie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH), Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, 30625, Hannover, Deutschland. [email protected]
  • 2 Klinik für Anästhesiologie und Intensivmedizin, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH), Hannover, Deutschland.
Published Article
Der Pathologe
Publication Date
Nov 16, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s00292-017-0392-8
PMID: 29147845


Rudolf Virchow is one of the founders of modern pathology, and many of his ideas on inflammatory and neoplastic diseases are still valid today. Even for Virchow, determination of malignancy was not always easy. As an example, the laryngeal disease of Crown Prince Frederick William, the later Emperor Frederick III, is presented.The clinical findings at the beginning of the disease were suggestive of a carcinoma, though an inflammatory lesion was also discussed. Several attempts were made to remove the lesion bioptically, but local recurrences occurred and the first tissue samples were not examined histopathologically. Since laryngeal tumour operations had a high mortality at that time, histopathologic examinations were made in order to decide for or against an operation. The samples taken after pre-treatment did not meet Virchow's criteria for determining a carcinoma. Contrary to the present concept of a carcinoma in situ-carcinoma sequence, Virchow's concept was based on the assumption that carcinomas are not derived from the epithelium, but arise from a mesenchymal-epithelial transformation from the connective tissue. The clinical suspicion of a laryngeal carcinoma was confirmed only shortly before the patient's death and later by a post-mortem examination.The question repeatedly asked is whether Virchow should have diagnosed a carcinoma at the beginning of the disease. The answer has been the same for more than a hundred years: the clinician is dissatisfied with the histopathological diagnosis, so the pathologist is to blame.

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