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Surgery Before 1840.

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Task 1: Surgery Before 1840 Operations in the nineteenth century resulted in such high death rates due to many reasons. Firstly, doctors and scientists were unaware of germs, and had no understanding of hygiene. They did not know that germs caused illnesses and disease. People believed illnesses were spontaneous and that the body produced its own poisons. Doctors did not wash their hands after or prior to operations, so germs were spread from patient to patient. The instruments used in operations in the nineteenth century were very basic. Doctors used mostly a selection of knives and saws to carry out their procedures. These tools would not be washed at all before or after operations, and so they could carry infections from one patient to another. During amputations, patients had no anaesthetic and so were in absolute agony whilst they took place. Doctors would rely on the patient passing out from shock but this did not always happen, so most of the patients were fully conscious during the dreadful operations. Patients could die from excessive blood loss, so doctors tried to perform the operations as quickly as possible to reduce it. Still after the operations there was a high possibility of the patient bleeding to death. Many skilled doctors could amputate a leg in under a minute. Some in fewer than 30 seconds, but speed did not always mean quality. ...read more.


Nightingale did not directly influence Lister, but her great improvements in the conditions of hospitals helped many patients survive. James Simpson was a medical student. He was watching an operation and he noticed that the patient was in agonising pain. This appalled him and he considered leaving the medical profession altogether. However, he persuaded himself to stay and to try and find a way of eliminating the amount of pain patients endured in an operation. In 1847 he and his doctors made an exciting discovery, chloroform. (James Simpson and his doctors after using Chloroform) While explaining what happened he said, 'we all inhaled the liquid, and were under the table in a minute or two...' This discovery led to anaesthetics being used in operations, which made the operations a lot smoother, as the patient was unconscious so the doctor had more time to execute the operation. Still it had no immediate influence to Lister. Overall I think Pasteur had the greatest influence to Lister. His germ theory helped Lister prevent infections. From Pasteur's simple wine experiment, Lister brought about anaesthetics. Pasteur discovered microbes and Lister then developed a carbolic spray to kill microbes. Nightingale introduced the idea of cleaning up hospitals and that 'bad air' caused a lot of disease. This was slightly similar to Lister's theory that germs caused disease. ...read more.


Her contributions significantly improved the condition of hospitals and many lives were saved by her 'clean' techniques. Many nursing schools based on her ideas were opened in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the U.S.A. She also published a book 'Notes on nursing'. This was not a nursing textbook but in the words of the author gave "hints for thoughts to women who have personal charge of the health of others" This book included her ideas on cleanliness and the effect this had on patients. Her concepts of bad air were similar to Lister's germ theory, but not directly linked. Through her training schools and teachings she greatly improved the nursing profession. Antiseptics led to surgery being a great deal safer and successful. They meant that doctors did not need to rush operations because of pain patients would endure. More complex operations could take place because doctors could take their time without the risk of infection. In conclusion, Lister's work had a huge impact on the medical world. His methods of sterilisation anaesthetics made a massive effect on surgery, making it safer and more endurable for the patients. People doubted his germ theory, yet he still carried out his work and his aseptic techniques are still used today. His work in anti-septic and aseptic surgery was the basis for the prevention of sepsis in surgery in the future. Surgery is now noted as either pre Lister or post Lister, due to the vast impact and contribution he has given the world of medicine. ...read more.

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