Progress is our tradition: The KARL STORZ company

Released September 18th, 2009
With its groundbreaking medical technology products, the German company KARL STORZ is a major supporter of the new International Reference and Development Centre for Surgical Technology (IRDC) in Leipzig. The international market leader for endoscopes, specialty surgical instruments and integrated OR solutions is presenting a complete treatment unit for ENT surgery - a worldwide novelty.

In the past few decades, modern endoscopy has revolutionized medical diagnostics and therapy. The name KARL STORZ is closely linked with this development. The company, which is associated with groundbreaking innovations in endoscopy, was founded in 1945 by Dr. med. h. c. Karl Storz (1911-1996) in Tuttlingen. The initial product range included instruments, headlamps and binocular loupes for otorhinolarynogology. The well-established company has grown from a two-man operation to a globalized family-owned business with more than 4,800 employees and seven additional production sites in Europe and the US. Under the leadership of the founder’s daughter, Dr. h.c. mult. Sybill Storz, the company has used the advantages of a family business to successfully compete in the international market.

An instrument maker by training, Karl Storz recognized the potential of endoscopy early on, and he significantly promoted its advancement. In 1953, he built his first endoscope, which still had a traditional lens system. The invention of the cold light source* in 1960 was a quantum leap essential to the development of modern endoscopy. “The new light source was a true revolution. It turned everything upside down,” explained Karl Storz, who was honored with the title “Pioneer in Endoscopy”, in an interview on April 3, 1996, briefly before his death. “The key was the spatial separation of the light source from the endoscope. The light source could now be placed next to the surgical table, and the light was guided to the endoscope using fiber optic cables. Light intensity was enormous. The resulting opportunities for diagnosis and surgical procedures had been inconceivable up to this point. For example, photos and films could now be taken without difficulty.” (Conversation with Herbert Mainusch in: Matthias A. Reuter “Geschichte der Endoskopie. Handbuch und Atlas“ [History of endoscopy. Handbook and atlas], Volume 1-4, Karl Krämer Verlag Stuttgart + Zürich, 1998, page 677/678).

Cooperation with the physicist Prof. Dr. Harold H. Hopkins followed. While companies in the US and Great Britain rejected the scientist’s invention as insignificant, Karl Storz achieved a milestone in the image quality of modern endoscopes with the introduction of the HOPKINS rod-lens system in 1965. The telescopes featured exceptional brilliance, sharpness, resolution and color fidelity.

Minimally-invasive surgery also benefitted enormously from the evolution of endoscopy. The first gallbladder removal using a laparoscope – a special endoscope – in 1987 marked the beginning of minimally invasive surgery. KARL STORZ continuously advances technical development, and its products are always on the cutting edge. With the introduction of OR1 in 1998, the company’s products were integrated into a comprehensive concept for specialty surgery, which is continuously being advanced to this day. The OR is not considered an isolated solution but is integrated into all of the hospital’s working and organizational processes. The IRDC in Leipzig represents the cutting edge of technology. The reference and development center will actively influence and continue the KARL STORZ success story.

The company is tied to the city of Leipzig through a special history: After completing his 3-year instrument maker training, the future factory owner Karl Storz was drawn to the Saxon city that is home to major trade fairs – he intended to further his knowledge of medical technology there. He became a merchant in the long-established Frenzel trading house for medical technology and came to know and appreciate the high-quality products of the instrument maker C.G. Heynemann.

“The position in Leipzig was a great opportunity for me... In this business, almost all endoscopes made by the existing endoscope manufacturers crossed our sales counter. And each time, the various manufacturers’ products really inspired me. As a company, Frenzel was not large enough to be anonymous, but it was of sufficient size to offer all important devices. I was inspired. After all, we had our own instrument making workshop at home. And I knew exactly where to start.” (Conversation with Herbert Mainusch in: Matthias A. Reuter “Geschichte der Endoskopie. Handbuch und Atlas“ [History of endoscopy. Handbook and atlas], Volume 1-4, Karl Krämer Verlag Stuttgart + Zürich, 1998, page 678).

The IRDC revives the connection between KARL STORZ and the city of Leipzig, and it continues the intensive dialog with physicians and developers that has been conducted since the company was founded more than 60 years ago. “In Leipzig, I had decided that I would collaborate with physicians upon my return to Tuttlingen. It was an absolute rarity at the time, for an instrument maker based in Tuttlingen to collaborate with physicians in hospitals,” explained Karl Storz in his last interview in an effort to describe his business philosophy. “Instruments had been made for a very long time, but only for instrument suppliers. The customers were always the suppliers. I wanted to change that. I did not want to get feedback from suppliers and their employees, but from practicing physicians.” (Conversation with Herbert Mainusch in: Matthias A. Reuter “Geschichte der Endoskopie. Handbuch und Atlas“ [History of endoscopy. Handbook and atlas], Volume 1-4, Karl Krämer Verlag Stuttgart + Zürich, 1998, page 679).

*Cold light is generated by a high intensity LED, Xenon, metal halide or halogen lamp that is located in its own case separate from the endoscope. Cold light sources feature a highly reduced infrared component because of their design and/or spectral composition. Infrared radiation is not visible to the human eye, but human skin can perceive the heat emitted by infrared radiation. Fiber optic light guides transmit the light to the tip of the endoscope. It exits in the immediate vicinity of the objective lens. Even with very high-intensity light, no heat is transmitted through the fiber optic cable. Therefore, this type of illumination is called cold light.

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For questions and appointments for interviews, video and foto sessions, please contact:

PD Dr. Gero Strauß
Direktor IRDC
Käthe-Kollwitz-Straße 64
04109 Leipzig
Fon: +49 (0)341 – 33 73 31 60
Fax: +49 (0)341 – 33 73 31 63

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