History, medicine on the Western Front

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  • medicine on the western front
    • injuries/ illnesses
      • gas attacks- caused temporary blindness, coughing and burns but usually no death
      • head injuries- very common, usually caused by shrapnel, in 1915, soldiers were give Brodie helmets to protect heads
      • shell shock- a psychological illness, caused lots of things including mental breakdowns
      • trench fever- had flu-like symptoms that lasted months, caused by lice
      • trench foot- caused by prolonged exposure to waterlogged trenches, treated with amputation or fresh socks
      • bullets- they destroyed stuff
      • shells and shrapnel caused most deaths and unplanned amputations
    • chain of evacuation
      • ran by the royal army medical corps (RAMC) and the first aid nursing yeomanry (FANY)
      • regimental aid post- regimental medical officer helped stretcher bearers do first aid and sent people to next base
        • the field ambulance took people to dressing stations, people were looked after for a week or moved on.
          • ran by the RAMC
          • Casualty Clearing stations- did life saving stuff, were located far away in buildings
            • base hospitals- located near ports, people stayed there long or were shipped home.
    • developments in medicine
      • blood transfusions
        • 1818-1829- James Blundell did first blood transfusions with low survival rates
          • 1901- Karl Landsteiner discovered 3 blood groups, 1902, they discovered a 4th group and that transfusions would only work with the same blood group.
        • 1915- Richard Lewisohn discovered that sodium citrate could be used to prevent clotting so blood could be stored
          • 1915- Richard Weil used refridgerators to keep it even longer
          • 1916- Francis Rous and James Turner discovered citrate glucose which kept blood even longer
      • x-rays
        • 1895- Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays but they weren't safe yet
        • in war, mobile x-rays were found at CCS to locate shrapnel and bullets
        • in war, they still weren't great but they saved lives
      • infections
        • antiseptic/ aseptic surgery wasn't possible on the western front so they used chemicals
        • by 1917, the Carrel-Datkin method (using sterilised salt solutions in tubes through wounds) was found to be more effective.
          • this wasn't good for deep wounds so they just removed infected tissues or did amputation.
      • 1915- the thomas splint was developed, it reduced death from broken limbs from 80% to less than 20% in soldiers
      • face injuries led to increase in plastic surgery led by Harold Gillies


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