Surgery and The First World War Essay

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“Every war stimulates medical research. It’s sad, but true" (Freemon). World War I advanced surgery to an unprecedented level through new discoveries and treatments. However, it was a struggle to fix the horrible injuries sustained by soldiers. Many soldiers died during attempts at reconstructive surgery, amputations, and other experimenting in the surgical field, yet these experimentations improved conditions and advanced medicine. During this time, surgery was becoming more successful by leaps and bounds, attempting to overcome problems that killed soldiers, like infection and gangrene, with new inventions in the field, like transfusions and asepsis. This war, in the history of surgery, was important enough to be repeated in the…show more content…
It was during WWI that Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, started his research with the Royal Army Medical Corps in London; “Disturbed by the high rate of death from infected wounds, Fleming began to question the effectiveness of treating dead or damaged tissue with certain antiseptics. In a series of ingenious experiments, he proved that the antiseptics then in use actually did more harm than good by killing the white cells of the immune system and thus making it easier for infection to develop” (Scientists: Their Lives and Works). A common case of infected wounds doctors had to deal with in WWI were shrapnel wounds, or foreign bodies which had been imbedded into soldiers flesh. The surgery created to deal with this was also important. Debridement was supposedly begun by a French medical officer called Dr. Riche, in 1914. This cleaner method not only removed the foreign bodies, but the surgeon would also cut out the skin that surrounded the ‘contused and infected wound’ to replace it with a ‘clean healthy incised wound’. This was possible only because of the new cleanliness in hospitals. Without antiseptics, bacteria wound have set into the open wounds much more often. The new idea was that a soldier; “to do all that he can to keep in good health is a duty that the soldier owes his country” (James Moss). Since the idea of bacteria and explaining disease through science, not religion, was new, many soldier

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