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The Development of Surgery. By Mr Day Downloaded from Lesson Objectives. To investigate the development of surgery focusing on anaesthetics, antiseptics and aseptic surgery. 3 Main Problems With Surgery. Pain Infection Bleeding

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The Development of Surgery

By Mr Day Downloaded from

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Lesson Objectives

  • To investigate the development of surgery focusing on anaesthetics, antiseptics and aseptic surgery.

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3 Main Problems With Surgery

  • Pain

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • By the 1800s there were no decent anaesthetics.

  • People relied on alcohol, opium and hypnosis.

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Development of Anaesthetics

  • In 1799 Humphrey Davey discovered that nitrous oxide (laughing gas) relieved pain.

  • His discovery was ignored by the medical profession who believed it unimportant.

  • In 1845 Horace Wells saw people inhaling the gas at a fair. He observed that they failed to feel the effects of pain.

  • He set up a demonstration but it failed miserably!

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Development of Anaesthetics

  • In 1846 William Morton removed a tumour from a patients neck using ether as an anaesthetic.

  • In December of the same year Robert Liston removed a patients leg in 26 seconds! The medical profession began to sit up and take notice.

  • In 1847 James Simpson experimented with chloroform. He administered it to over 50 women and the results were impressive.

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  • There were various reasons why people were opposed to the development.

  • It was difficult to judge the correct amount. Accidents happened.

  • People opposed on religious grounds e.g. childbirth.

  • Some people didn’t trust surgeons.

  • Others felt that men that relied on anaesthetics were soft.

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  • Opposition melted away when Queen Victoria used chloroform to give birth to her 8th child.

  • By the end of the 19th century the anaesthetist had become a specialist in his own right.

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Danger! Infection!

  • Surgeons got a little carried away.

  • Operations could now be carried out with the patients feeling little pain or serious discomfort.

  • The big danger was now infection.

  • Surgeons wore normal clothes. Instruments were not sterilised, sometimes not even cleaned!

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  • In 1847 a Hungarian doctor called Semmelweiss ordered doctors in his hospital to wash hands after handling dead bodies.They did. Rates of puerperal fever amongst new mothers fell.

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Lister Lister rhymes with Blister

  • Joseph Lister was responsible for the big breakthrough in fighting infection. He had studied Pasteur’s findings.

  • He ensured that instruments, the patient, the surgeons hands and even the air were drenched with a carbolic acid spray.

  • His results were stunning. By 1912 up to 10 times more operations were taking place than 40 years before with less infection.

  • It was now safe to be operated on.

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Aseptic Surgery

  • The problem with carbolic acid is that it could act as an irritant.

  • In Germany aseptic surgery began to be developed. This is the process of killing germs without the need for chemicals. (superheated steam).

  • In America a surgeon called William Halstead introduced surgical masks and gloves and cut rates of infection even further.

  • Operating theatres were now pristine places.