Cataloguing the Neurosurgical Case Notes of Norman Dott

A photograph from Dott's work at Bangour General (Emergency Medical Service) Hospital. Personal details have been removed. 

Thanks to Wellcome Trust Research Resources in Medical History funding, LHSA has been awarded a two year grant to catalogue the case notes of prominent Edinburgh neurosurgeon, Norman McOmish Dott (1897-1973). Dott established the first specialist neurosurgery unit in Scotland in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1938, treated service personnel at Bangour General (Emergency Medical Service) Hospital during the Second World War, and finished his distinguished career at the Western General Hospital, where he worked to establish the Department of Surgical Neurology, being largely responsible for its design. Not only was Dott a great innovator in the diagnosis and treatment of intracranial aneurysms, he invented his own surgical equipment and instruments, and was a pioneer in the use of angiograms to demonstrate malformations in the brain. LHSA holds around 26,500 folders of case notes relating to patients treated by Dott between the 1920s and the 1960s – a collection that has been largely inaccessible to researchers on account of its sheer size and lack of detailed cataloguing. Legislation and NHS guidelines also affect researcher access to modern collections of medical records like these, and so protecting the anonymity of former patients is paramount.

During the next two years, we will work to develop a catalogue that will list each case recorded in the LHSA Dott collections in order to increase their use by historical and clinical researchers. When the catalogue is complete, we hope that users will be able to search to a greater level of detail than has previously been possible in modern medical record collections, furthering knowledge of the history of a fascinating surgical specialism. During the next two years, we’ll update you on the progress of the project, let you know more about some of the issues involved in cataloguing case notes and follow Dott’s career as he developed into one of the most lauded Scottish surgeons in modern history.

To learn more about the project, visit the LHSA webpage.