Franz Gschnitzer

Franz Gschnitzer was born on 29.11.29 in Innsbruck († 30 April 2014). He completed elementary school, high school and medical studies in his home town and received his doctorate with distinction in 1953. Gschnitzer began his postdoctoral training at the Innsbruck Pathological-Anatomical Institute under Prof. Lang. After two years he then moved to the surgical university clinic, where he performed his first surgical interventions under Prof. Breitner. Due to an acute shortage of positions, he could not be taken on as an assistant after one year of training. He therefore went to surgery in Tübingen to work under Prof. Dick, where he worked from 1957 to 1961; in 1961 he was awarded the FA for Surgery. During this time Gschnitzer had the opportunity to spend four months on maternity leave with Prof. Derra in Düsseldorf, where he dealt with questions of cardiac surgery, a branch of surgery which fascinated him immediately.

Since the new building of the surgery in Innsbruck opened up the possibility of setting up heart surgery here too, Gschnitzer went back to Düsseldorf for four years after consultation with Prof. Huber, in order to receive more in-depth cardiosurgical training. During this stay he also wrote his habilitation thesis "The Minimal Perfusion of the Pulmonary Stream Tract during the Cardio-Pulmonary Bypass Circuit". In May 1965 Gschnitzer returned to Innsbruck; he subsequently worked as a senior surgeon and established cardiac surgery in Innsbruck.

In 1968 - the year of his habilitation - the new clinic was opened. As early as 1969 he performed the first open-heart surgery using the heart-lung machine. After Huber retired, Prof. Baumgartner became the supportive head of the Surgical Clinic. In 1972, the associate departments created by Huber became independent university clinics. During this time we experienced many innovations: for example, Gschnitzer reintroduced the gastric resection according to Billroth I, which had been frequently used by Prof. v. Haberer in the 1920s and subsequently "forgotten"; furthermore, colon interposition after esophagectomy was successfully established, as well as the multi-step procedure for carcinomas of the left hemicolon and thymus extirpation for the treatment of myasthenia gravis. The development of transplantation surgery at our clinic brought many new surgical and scientific aspects. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that in Innsbruck in 1980 Margreiter's 1st heart was transplanted with the help of Gschnitzer.

During his time as a full professor, other highlights in general surgery, such as the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy or special surgical techniques in oncology, which were performed for the first time in Innsbruck, were achieved. Furthermore, diagnostic and interventional endoscopy, surgical sonography and chemotherapy of solid tumours experienced decisive progress, without which "modern" surgery would no longer be conceivable today.

Even if Gschnitzer, as chairman of the surgical board, had to increasingly place cardiac surgery in other hands for organisational reasons, his special interest continued to be in this specialist area, as demonstrated by his support for the screw spindle pump developed by his colleague Josef Hager, a centrifugal-displacement blood pump intended for cardiac support.