The Vikings and Baron Dupuytren’s disease

Viking skullThe Vikings and Baron Dupuytren’s disease

Adrian E. Flatt, MD

BUMC PROCEEDINGS: 2001;14:378–384


Dupuytren’s disease (DD) is an ancient affliction of unknown origin. It is defined by Dorland as shortening, thickening, and fibrosis of the palmar fascia producing a flexion deformity of a finger. Tradition has it that the disease originated with the Vikings, who spread it throughout Northern Europe and beyond as they traveled and intermarried. After being present for hundreds of years, DD was named in the 19th century after a famous French surgeon, who was not the first to describe it. This article reviews the history of DD and describes its incidence, clinical manifestations, and treatment.


In the year 865, “a great heathen army” of Vikings landed on England’s east coast; an earlier raid on the monastery of Lindisfarne prompted a cleric of the times to say, “Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race.” By the 10th century, 3 of England’s 4 kingdoms were dominated by the Vikings, who gradually converted to Christianity and settled in the conquered territories.

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