Two hands showing what Vikings disease is

What is Vikings Disease?

In the 16th century, a curse was foretold about the Scottish MacCrimmon clan that they would cease to be the official (bag) pipers of the chiefs of the Clan MacLeod and would be forced to leave the Isle of Skye forever. The curse came true. The fingers of the men from the MacCrimmons clan became twisted and gnarled resembling a claw and they were unable to play the pipes.

Throughout history, this disease has been known by many names: ‘MacCrimmons curse’, ‘Celtic Hand’ or the ‘Vikings disease’. While this is clearly a debilitating condition and many cultures believed it to be a curse, others associated it with divinity.

In the 19th century, French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren presented his now famous lecture at the Hotel Dieu where he showed 30-40 patients with what he called ‘rétraction permanente’ that that he had seen over 20 years and demonstrated successful surgery to manage it. Today we know this disease as Dupuytren contracture.

Our special guests on this episode are:

– Dr Paul van Minnen who is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon specialising in hand surgery and runs his own private practice ‘Grip surgery’ in Adelaide; and

– Dr Sarah Shepard who is an Anatomical Pathologist at Clinpath Pathology who has specialised in bone and soft tissue pathology.


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This Medical Life – Stories of Medicine

Welcome to the This Medical Life podcast. Our mission is to share stories about the triumphs and tragedies of diseases and illnesses from ancient times up until what we know today.

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