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History

19th-century surgery

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More causes for improvements in surgery

The number of operations grew hugely through the century, and surgeons became skilled at internal operations (1880s: first appendectomy; 1896: first open-heart surgery) and even tried (unsuccessfully) to transplant organs such as thyroid glands and testicles. Various factors pushed the process along:

  1. The Industrial Revolution / inventions
    • Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays - helped internal surgery.
    • Public demonstrations (eg of anaesthesia) allowed knowledge of new procedures to spread.
  2. Scientific knowledge
    • The scientist Humphrey Davy had first discovered that laughing gas was an anaesthetic when working on the properties of gases in 1800.
    • Joseph Lister lectured in King's College London, and published his findings in 'The Lancet'.
  3. Social factors
    • Queen Victoria gave birth to her children under anaesthesia (after which the general public's fear of anaesthesia lessened). Edward VII's appendectomy helped reduce fear of operations.
  4. War
    • The needs of army surgeons treating soldiers injured in battle (often requiring amputations) stimulated advance.
    • The Crimean War led to the development of nursing (Florence Nightingale at Scutari).
    • World War One led directly to the development of the National Blood Transfusion Service.

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