Stephen J. Birchard DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVS

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Halsted Chant!

When I was on the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State, I taught the "Instruments and Tissue Handling" lecture to the 2nd year veterinary students. I tried to emphasize the importance of the surgical principles developed by Dr. William Halsted, a great surgeon who is considered one of the patriarchs of modern surgical technique in humans. His principles were:

Gentle handling of tissues
Meticulous hemostasis
Close dead space
Maintain blood supply to the organs and tissues
Maintain asepsis
Do not suture tissue under tension
Accurately align the tissue layers when closing

Rather than have the students memorize that list of principles, I modified them into a silly but fun exercise we called the "Halsted Chant".  I had one member of the class stand in front of his or her fellow students and yell the first part of each line with the students responding with the second half of each line.

I have to say each time we did it I found it to be a wonderful experience. If it helps you remember the most important principles of surgery, commit the Chant to memory and say it out loud before beginning the intended surgery.


When in doubt . . . cut it out!

A chance to cut . . . a chance to cure!

Above all else . . . do no harm!


Tight stitches . . . incision itches!

Unhappy tissues . . . healing issues!

Leave dead space . . .    seroma in place!

Hemostasis . . . bloodless spaces!

Handle rough . . . inflamed stuff!

Asepsis . . . no abscess!

Layers aligned . . . healing sublime!

Repeat the Chorus