Dr. Paul F. Vietz, a Carroll County obstetrician-gynecologist who with his colleague Dr. T. Samuel Ahn was the first doctor in the country to perform a surgical procedure for hysterectomies that allowed the removal of the uterus without any major surgical incisions, died of a blood disorder Oct. 23 at his Westminster home. He was 91.
“This surgical technique was popular in the 1980s in Europe but not here, and now it’s done everywhere and it’s very popular,” said Dr. Ahn, a retired OB/GYN, who was a surgical partner with Dr. Vietz, in a telephone interview. “A conventional surgery for a hysterectomy can result in a longtime recovery for the patient whereas our procedure has a great benefit for the patient because they recover a lot quicker.”
Paul Fritz Vietz, son of Fritz Vietz and Hildegard Pietsch Vietz, was born in Berlin. His father was drafted into the German Army and killed during World War II, and his mother died at an early age of endometriosis, leaving him an orphan.
Raised in Berlin by his grandmother, Dr. Vietz was a graduate of Leibnitz Oberrealschule, and because of his mother’s death, he decided to pursue a medical career in obstetrics and gynecology, family members said.
A graduate of the Free University of Berlin, in the early 1950s, Dr. Vietz studied for a year at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, as an exchange student, and then returned to Germany where he completed medical school, also at the Free University of Berlin.
He completed an internship in gynecology in Glens Falls, New York, and once again returned to Germany where he married his high school sweetheart, the former Sigrid M. Jackisch, in 1958. The couple spent their honeymoon en route to Baltimore where he completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Union Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Vietz established an OB/GYN practice in Westminster. Interested in the latest treatments for his patients, he became fascinated with what is known today as minimally invasive surgery, or laparoscopy, which was a developing field at that time.
He studied and collaborated with Dr. Kurt Karl Stephan Semm at the University of Kiel in Germany, who is the acknowledged “father of modern laparoscopy and pelviscopy,” and developed what is known as CISH, which is the acronym for classic intrafascial supracervical hysterectomy, and designed the surgical instruments required to perform the procedure.
The most common causes of hysterectomies include abnormal bleeding, fibroid tumors and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Dr. Vietz and Dr. Ahn went to Germany to learn how to perform CISH with Dr. Semm and brought the technique to what is today Carroll County Medical Center, where in December 1991, they performed the first CISH in the country, according to a 1994 article in The Sun.
“The operation allowed the removal of the uterus with no major surgical incisions and preserves the outer walls of the cervix,” reported the newspaper. “It removes the uterus without the abdominal vaginal incision characteristic of traditional hysterectomies.”
“In our judgment,” Dr. Vietz told the newspaper, “this is the gentlest hysterectomy we can provide. It is minimally invasive surgery and organ-preserving surgery.”
The procedure required on the surgeon’s part a high level of manual dexterity, The Sun observed.
“If some doctors don’t learn properly, they’re going to make a lot of mistakes,” Dr. Ahn told The Sun in 1994. “That applies to all kinds of endoscopic [laparoscopic] surgery.”
The surgery begins using instruments that Dr. Semm had designed with three small incisions at the navel and pubic hairline. A thin, hollow tube bearing the laparoscope’s camera is inserted, and allows the surgeon to see the abdomen through a small hole.
A TV monitor picks up the image and allows the surgeon performing the operation to remove the uterus without making large surgical incisions, which prevented scarring and promoted a quicker recovery.
“After cutting the uterus free of surrounding tissues, the doctor inserts an instrument through the vagina to ‘core’ out the center of the cervix — the part most susceptible to cancer,” The Sun reported. “Then a sharp-edged instrument is inserted through one of the incisions to cut the uterus into small pieces and suction it out through a tube.”
The other benefit was that the surgery “preserved a portion of the cervix, the surrounding ligaments and muscles — which support the pelvic floor — are left untouched,” reported The Sun. “These muscles play a role in preventing bladder problems.”
Dr. Vietz told the newspaper, “If a woman has a healthy cervix, I have no reason to touch it or remove healthy tissues.”
“Dr. Vietz was a very good man and very caring when it came to his patients. They always came first,” Dr. Ahn said in the interview. “He was very disciplined, accomplished and got good results. He worked hard for his patients and was a very good doctor.”
Dr. Vietz and Dr. Ahn maintained separate OB/GYN practices.
“We worked together in surgery and were just two docs helping each other out doing this surgery,” Dr. Ahn said.
In the operating room, Dr. Vietz was all business.
“As I said, he was very disciplined, and during surgery he didn’t talk a lot or tell jokes, which sometimes could scare the OR nurses,” Dr. Ahn said. “But, when the work was done, he was the very warm, friendly outgoing person that he was.”
The Morning Sun
In 1994, the two surgeons published an account of their pioneering work in the February 1994 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“They were pioneers, but the procedure has since evolved, and today we’re more likely to remove the cervix,” said Dr. Michael P. Vietz, his son, who is an OB/GYN, and chair of the OB/GYN department at St. Agnes Hospital, and a Westminster resident.
While he had given up surgery and delivering babies, Dr. Vietz continued to practice until recently.
He was joined by his wife, a histologic technician, who worked with her husband from the time he established a private practice until they shuttered it two years ago because of the coronavirus pandemic and retired.
The elder Dr. Vietz, who was a philatelist and an avid reader, also enjoyed keeping up to date with his medical education and listening to classical music. He and his son also shared a love of photography.
Services were held Nov. 1 at Pritts Funeral Home in Westminster.
In addition to his wife of 64 years and son, Dr. Vietz is survived by his daughter, Martina M. “Tina” Saboury, of Westminster; a sister, Anita Augustin of Berlin; and two grandchildren.