1. Briefly describe what problems surgeons faced in the early 19th century?
Pain was one of the main problems that faced surgeons in the nineteenth century, because patients were in agony during surgery therefore it was hard for surgeons to operate. Another problem was infection. After operations open wounds were infected as there were no antiseptic to kill or prevent germs, as a result many patients often died of infection. As well as pain and infection, bleeding was a problem for many surgeons. Operations were quick and often resulted in lots of blood being lost due to loss of blood at high quantities many patients died.
. Explain why Lister’s work was important in the development of surgery
Lister was important in the development of surgery during the 1800s because he began to use carbolic acid as a way of curing infection from patients. Often operations left patients with open wounds that attracted germs and caused infection. It was Lister’s discovery of carbolic acid that prevented many deaths, making him an important figure in the development of surgery.
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Lister was also important because of his use of carbolic spray, so before operations the room and environment were freed of germs and surgeons also washed their hands with carbolic - this began aseptic surgery meaning people were not going to get an infection from the operations as the operating theatre was clear of germs. Lister’s keen interest in medicine allowed him to understand and know about Pasteur’s germ theory and therefore he could develop his own ideas.
After anaesthetics and before antiseptics the black period of surgery came as surgeons performed more intense and in depth surgery; however, they were unaware of how to disinfect or stop infections form emerging. More people died of during the black period of surgery; therefore, Lister’s discoveries of antiseptics prevented infections so it was no longer a problem. Complex surgery could be carried out without the risk of infections therefore surgery developed and there was a lower death rate.
. ‘After the work of Simpson and Lister there was little left to do in the development of surgery.’ How far do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer.
Lister and Simpson made many discoveries that helped surgery, after anaesthetics and antiseptics there was little left to do to help surgery. The three main problems were pain, infection and bleeding, with only bleeding remaining a problem after Simpson and Lister.
Anaesthetics such as chloroform (discovered by Simpson) helped to prevent pain within patients therefore more complex operations occurred, also Lister discovered carbolic acid and spray so more complex surgery could be carried out without a risk of infection. Although Simpson’s discovery helped surgery improve, it was Lister’s carbolic acid and spray that reduced death rates. However, together anaesthetics and aseptic improved surgery massively.
But bleeding was still a big remaining problem and many patients died of blood loss at high quantities. Neither Simpson nor Lister helped with the progression of blood transfusions or storing blood for future use - it was scientists other than Lister and Simpson that discovered ways to store blood and make blood transfusion possible. After the nineteenth century there was still developments in surgery being made as plastic surgery and radio therapy further enhanced the effects of surgery and made improvements even after pain, infection and bleeding were no longer the main problems.
Although Simpson and Lister made major improvements in the development of surgery, there was still other major problems that were unsolved after Simpson and Lister, therefore the statement above is not completely true as developments were made and are still being made to make surgery more efficient and effective.