Duct of Wirsung

Other known aliasesmain pancreatic duct

DefinitionThis is the main pancreatic duct that joins the pancreas to the common bile prior to the ampulla of Vater before emptying into the second portion of the duodenum

Clinical SignificanceHaving a single, major pancreatic duct is the most common anatomic variant for pancreatic anatomy, but some individuals may have an accessory duct that could be functional.  The issue with this, of course, is management of pancreatic pathology so imaging may be required prior to instrumentation or surgical management.

HistoryNamed after Johann Georg Wirsung (1589-1643), who was a German anatomist from Padua.  He made this discovery while dissecting a criminal (Zuane Viaro) who was recently hanged for murder in 1642.  Instead of formally publishing his findings, he engraved the sketch on a copper plate so numerous casting could be made and sent to the leading anatomists of the time.  This finding is not without controversy.  One year after this discovery, Wirsung was murdered in his house late at night by a Belgian student named Giacomo Cambier over a quarrel of first discovered this duct.  In a cruel twist of fate, 5 years after his death, one of Wirsung’s students who was assisting in the dissection, Moritz Hoffman, claimed it was he who discovered this duct in a turkey rooster a year before Wirsung.

Original copper plate etching
Painting of the murder of Wirsung


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