Ralph B. Cloward, M.D. was my father. He's the one who worked with me on Boy Scout merit badges and was there to hold my hand after my open heart surgery at the age of 13. He helped me with my high school algebra homework, paid my college tuition and gave me good advice when I became a husband and a father. We always played golf together, jogged together and went to church together. For twenty years, we worked together to make surgical instruments and other medical products available to spine surgeons around the world. During that time I had the opportunity to see him associate with his colleagues and came to know Dr. Cloward, the spine surgeon, a different dimension to my dad. Dr. Cloward, the spine surgeon, is renowned for his development of new operating techniques and his design and invention of surgical instruments. He insisted on perfection in the manufacturing of his instruments. He always attended medical conventions with me to exhibit and demonstrate the surgical instruments and devices he designed. Until his death in 2000 at the age of 92, Dr. Cloward actively pursued his life-long passion of spine surgery, contributed writings for medical journals and textbooks, and travelled the globe to lecture at medical meetings. He was a teacher and mentor to surgeons world wide and was a driving force and champion of excellence in spine surgery.
Dr. Cloward developed numerous original procedures for the treatment of lesions of the lumbar discs, the history of which may be of interest to the surgeon. Like many contributors to medicine, the technique was developed as a wartime necessity. Dr. Cloward was the only neurosurgeon in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He was assigned by the army to remain in the Hawaiian Islands for the duration of World War II. The urgent need to build the island defenses and the furious pace of hard work resulted in many low back injuries. Most of these were disc lesions causing incapacitating low back pain. A method of treatment was needed which would return the working man to his job in the shortest period of time. The interbody fusion after total disc removal was developed to meet this need. During the evolution of the operation, the goals were directed toward reducing the postoperative pain both immediate and in the convalescent period; eliminating the postoperative supports (braces or cast) to allow freedom of back movements without fear of disrupting the fusion; and finally to prevent formation of intraspinal scarring, so often the cause of prolonged or recurrent postoperative pain. These goals were all realized with the interbody fusion operation due to the following factors:
My father has been my life-long inspiration. I thank him for being my support, teacher, and friend.
- many years to perfect the surgical technique;
- the use of a bone bank to assure an ample supply of good quality bone grafts to eliminate pain at a donor site;
- a positive suction drainage system to remove all post-operative blood from the wound;
- the use of steroids post-operatively to relieve post-operative pain and fever and prevent nerve root complications; and
- the special instruments which he invented and developed over the years to make the operation easier for the surgeon and safer for the patient.
KERRY B. CLOWARD