[picture of Rudolph Matas]

Rudolph Matas



Rudolph Matas was born in New Orleans on September 1, 1860 .  In his childhood, he spent several years with his family in their native Spain , but returned to New Orleans and in 1877 enrolled in the Medical College of Louisiana, now Tulane University .


Two years later, Matas was chosen to travel with the U.S. Yellow Fever Commission to Havana to serve as laboratory assistant and interpreter. There he met Dr. Carlos Finlay, the first to suggest the mosquito as the yellow fever vector.  Matas was, for a time, the sole supporter of the theory.


Matas received his degree in medicine from the Medical Department of the University of Louisiana, now Tulane University, in 1880. Matas' first landmark paper was published in 1885; in it, he unequivocally defined the cecum and appendix as intraperitoneal.  Subsequent milestones include his use of spinal anesthesia in 1889, the first in the United States , his development of the intravenous drip, and his use of endotracheal intubation with positive-pressure ventilation to dramatically improve the safety of thoracic surgery.


His most renowned achievement, however, was his development of the intrasaccular technique for the surgical treatment of aneurysm.  Previously, surgical treatment of aneurysm was limited to proximal and distal vessel ligation.  Matas' technique, initially an improvisation to control bleeding from a brachial artery aneurysm fed by numerous collaterals, involved opening the sac and obliterating the ostia of the collaterals from inside; it was later refined to preserve the patency of the parent artery in favorable cases.


Matas' career was one of distinction from the outset: at 23 he was appointed director of the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal.  In 1895 he was elected Professor of Surgery at Tulane University, a post he held until he became Emeritus Professor in 1927. He was also active as surgeon and consultant at Charity Hospital, Touro Infirmary, and the Ear, Eye, Nose and Throat Hospital - all in New Orleans - throughout a long career.  At 48, gonococcal keratoconjunctivitis, acquired in the operating room, necessitated enucleation; Matas subsequently became fond of remarking on what a great deal "we Cyclopeans can accomplish in a binocular world."  Matas continued his surgical practice and civic and academic pursuits until the age of 92, five years before his death.


Dr. Matas was a pioneer of the first rank in the surgery of the blood vessels, chest and abdomen. His introduction of the suture for the cure of aneurism won him international fame and caused Sir William Osler to hail him as the "Father of Vascular Surgery" and the "Modern Antyllus". His development of the intravenous drip technique, suction siphonage in abdominal operations, and other achievements, brought him signal honors from colleagues at home and in many countries abroad. Dr. Matas was selected by the Times Picayune as one of the individuals that defined New Orleans in the 20th Century.