Giants in History: Tôn Thất Tùng

Making liver operations safer 

Tôn Thất Tùng (10 May 1912 - 7 May 1982)


Vietnamese surgeon Tôn Thất Tùng (10 May 1912 – 7 May 1982) developed a pioneering technique that reduced the risks and mortality rate of liver operations. Known as the Tôn Thất Tùng Method, the procedure involves tightening the hepatic veins before the operation to minimise bleeding. This enables surgeons to dissect a liver in minutes instead of hours. Tùng’s deep knowledge of liver anatomy was honed when he was a postgraduate medical student studying livers infected by pinworms. Tùng had only been able to pursue an advanced medical education after overcoming opposition from the French colonial government, which sought to keep Vietnamese people out of medicine. In addition to being a liver surgery pioneer, Tùng also performed the first heart surgery in Vietnam.