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Anaesthetics and Antiseptics. What, who, when? What was medicine like before these discoveries? What was medicine like after these discoveries?. What, who, when?.

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anaesthetics and antiseptics
Anaesthetics and Antiseptics
  • What, who, when?
  • What was medicine like before these discoveries?
  • What was medicine like after these discoveries?
what who when
What, who, when?
  • Anaesthetics – used to knock out the patient and prevent them from feeling pain. James Simpson used CHLOROFORM successfully for the first time in 1847.
  • Antiseptics – used to kill germs and stop them from infecting wounds after operations. Joseph Lister used CARBOLIC ACID in 1867 in the form of a spray.
what was medicine like before

Operations were carried out very quickly to reduce the pain

Patients were held down to reduce the amount of movement they made.

Surgeons such as Liston could remove a leg in minutes

Humphrey Davy used LAUGHING GAS to reduce pain in 1799

ETHER was also used to knock out patients but it had serious problems


Even if patients survived an operation they would usually die from infection – the death rate from leg amputations was nearly 50%

Germs would enter the would and cause SEPTICAEMIA or blood poisoning

Surgeons reused bandages and did not wash their hands or sterilise their instruments

Semmelweiss, a Hungarian doctor was the first doctor to recommend better hygiene for doctors in the 1840s

What was medicine like before?
what was medicine like after

The first reaction was negative – doctors were unsure about the long term effects of chloroform

The death of Hannah Greener in 1848 from too much chloroform scared surgeons

Anaesthetics did not make surgery safer – in fact the death rate got HIGHER as a result of the more complex operations that doctors started doing

However after Queen Victoria used chloroform during the delivery of her child in 1857 it became standard surgical practice


To start with many surgeons did not like Lister’s methods – the carbolic spray was messy and got in the way

Surgeons were still convinced that they needed to do quick operations and Lister’s methods slowed them down

Many surgeons simply did not believe the results and it was too soon for Pasteur’s germ theory to have spread

However the death rate from operations dropped dramatically and by the late 1890s ASEPTIC surgery was being used to ensure absolute cleanliness

What was medicine like after?