Hanno Millesi, March 24, 1927-April 28, 2017

By Robert Schmidhammer, MD, and Wolfgang Grisold, MD,

Dr. Hanno Millesi

University Professor Dr. Hanno Millesi, a doyen of modern nerve surgery, died April 28, 2017, in Vienna, Austria. He was 90.

Dr. Millesi was born in Austria in 1927. He finished his medical studies in Innsbruck in 1951, and started his career in surgery at the University of Vienna. He was one of the founders of plastic and reconstructive surgery in Austria, and chaired the department at the University of Vienna until his retirement in 1995. He has a long list of international achievements, including being a member of the Sunderland Society, the International Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery, and the World Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery. He has a long list of publications and books, and was actively involved in peripheral nerve research until his death.

Original sketch of a complex reconstruction of the brachial plexus, by Dr. Millesi (approximately 2005). (PHR: Phrenic nerve; C5: nerve root with neuroma; ACC: Accessory nerve; PMA: pectoralis major muscle; FAP: Posterior fascicle, SPSC Suprascapular nerve, lines depict sural nerve grafts (transplants); MC musculocutaneous nerve; IC Intercostal nerves.)

Dr. Millesi had an eminent interest in surgery of the peripheral nerves, and was one of the pioneers in using autologous nerve transplant, which revolutionized the concept of nerve repair. He also developed the methodology of microsurgical neurolysis, which aims to decompress nerve fascicles.

He remained active in the field of research until his death. In his last years, he was devoted to tissue and environment of peripheral nerves, in particular nerve gliding. Increasingly, he incorporated the new imaging methods, in particular high-resolution ultrasound, in his concepts.

Dr. Millesi was a dedicated physician, and was appreciated for his lexical knowledge and his ability to consult and advise. He was tireless with regard to patient issues and any aspects of peripheral nerve.

Dr. Millesi was not only an excellent surgeon and scientist, but he also was a good example of collaboration between the fields of neurology and plastic and reconstructive surgery. His concepts of nerve surgery, re-innervation, and applied neuroplasticity taught neurology a lot. These concepts have advanced the knowledge of nerve repair and reconstruction from a static approach to a highly dynamic field.

Robert Schmidhammer, MD, is a university professor at Millesi Center in Vienna. Wolfgang Grisold, MD, is WFN secretary general and a professor at Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Experimental and Clinical Traumatology in Vienna.