Celebrating 50 Golden Years
of Hand Surgery in India

Prof. Brij Bhushan Joshi

Dr. Brij Bhushan Joshi

Dr. Brij Bhushan Joshi was one of the pioneers of hand surgery, not only in India but also was renowned for his knowledge, ingenuity and innovativeness, the world over.

Dr. Joshi started his medical education at the prestigious K.E.M. Medical College in Lahore, then in undivided India. After partition, he completed the degree course at the Grant Medical College and Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals, Mumbai. In the year 1950, he obtained post graduate degree of M.S. in Orthopaedic surgery, the first ever not only from Bombay University (now Mumbai University), but also in India. He then moved to Delhi and was the youngest Chief of Surgery, at the age of 27 years, at the Lady Irwin Hospital, Delhi.

In 1962, his love for the city where he did his medical education brought him back to Mumbai. He joined the M.G.M. Hospital in Parel, Mumbai, where he worked tirelessly till he retired in 1986. Working at the M.G.M. Hospital meant dealing with a deluge of hand injuries, as it was an E.S.I.S. hospital. Workers, injured in factories and at their work places came with a wide spectrum of challenging problems. Many patients came with severely crushed and mutilated hands. One of these patients was blind, with injured fingertips, "blinding" him twice. As he could neither see nor touch. Dr. Joshi was inspired to innovate sensory skin flaps and restore sensitivity on the fingertips, helping the visually impaired patient regain tactile "sight" and therefore reducing his disability. It was this incident that led him to design a variety of sensory flaps for fingertips and mutilated hands, which would be considered an important peak in Dr. Joshi's career. He designed several sensory flaps for fingertip injuries, which was of extraordinary help in such visually impaired patients.

Dr. Joshi had no formal training in hand surgery, as none existed in the country then. This led him to realize early in life that he had to find his own solutions to these peculiar and varied problems.

Unhappy with the available external fixators while dealing with industrial and agricultural accidents involving crushed and mangled limbs, Dr Joshi evolved a mini-external fixation device for stabilisation of the hand and the foot. He used Joshi's External Stabilisation System (JESS) for effectively correcting complex deformities and limb lengthening as well.

Dr. Joshi realised the importance of aftercare in hand surgery. He devised some of the most elegant splints out of sheets of easily available aluminium, rubber hose pipes, Rexene strips and spring wire. He would design and plan low profile, effective and comfortable splints that were easy to don and doff. Dattu, his trusted splint-maker would give them enduring forms and shapes which continue to be in use all across the country even today.

He trained a generation of Hand surgeons, who have carved a name for themselves in the field of Hand Surgery across the world. One of the many such distinguished students of his, has offered rich tributes to him - READ