My husband went in for surgery last week to repair his rotator cuff and wrist  (my son already had his surgery) from an injury he got last year.  You can read more about it on the family blog  CLEARED TO RACE POST.  I have been thinking a lot about surgery and all of the great advances in medicine.  Having a daughter with a mysterious medical condition, I know we have a long way to go….but it is amazing how much the doctors can do.

Surgery has been performed since pre-historic times.  The most common operations that were preformed were wound dressings and amputations for soldiers or sailors hurt in battle.  The three biggest complications with surgery was pain caused to the patient (the shock alone could kill some people), bleeding (patients could bleed to death very quickly), or infection (after surgery complications).

PAIN:  Two American dental surgeons Horace Wells and William Morton pioneered the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and ether as anesthetics (chemicals that stop someone feeling pain during an operation).  On October 16, 1846 the first pain-free operation was performed.  Wenow have many kinds of gases, vapours and drugs used to ensure a patient is comfortable during surgery.

BLEEDING:  During most surgery’s and amputations, the doctors would relay on the body’s natural ability to clot to stop bleeding by applying pressure or a tourniquet to the wound.  Although this is what we do for minor cuts, many people lost their lives because the doctors were unable to stop the blood flow.  In surgery today some blood vessels may be cauterised (using a device that zaps them with electricity), and some may be clamped to stop the bleeding, then tied with a suture to keep them closed. 

INFECTION:  In 1867 Joseph Lister in the UK developed ways to cut infection by sterilizing surgical instruments, hand washing and using a carbolic acid spray to kill germs in the air. Nowadays, air in operating rooms is carefully filtered to remove bacteria and a germ free area around the site of the operation is maintained at all times. Modern antiseptics include betadine- the orange solution painted around operation sites prior to surgery.

 Look how far we have come!  No matter what kind of surgery you might need, (reconstructive, transplant, elective, or plastic surgery), I think we should all be very thankful for the advances in modern technology.  Number one for me would be no pain during the operation and not being able to hear or see what is happening.  Not bleeding to death or getting an infection is also a huge plus. 🙂



  1. I really like your then-vs-now approach to this post. It’s true — we’ve come a long way! And it sounds like your family is no stranger to the operating room — hope all continues to go well.

  2. Sure we’ve come a long way but it’d nice to have more excuses to get out of the house.

    Still, I had a few cases of pneumonia as a child so I’d probably only have lived to be about six or seven back in the day.

  3. I have the greatest respect for all medical staff. They do stuff most of us can’t and we depened upon them. If they make a mistake, hey, they’re human too. You won;t hear me grumble. The NHS is a part of our society here and though you’ll hear people knock it because of blah, blah…..it’s service, in my view, is outstanding ! Controversial in the US, I know.

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