UNIT 3/ Transformation of Surgery

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What was surgery like before c1850?


  • Surgeons did not have reliable pain killers
  • In any case, most surgeons opposed any form of pain relief
  • Others, tried to reduce pain eg alcohol
  • effect - need for quick operations otherwise paitents would often die of shock


  • no effective methods of replacing this
  • Blood transfusions were tried using animals and other people - failed
  • Ligaments and clamps were used to limit blood loss
  • effect - avoid blood loss, surgeons had to work very quickly


  • Surgical operations were dirty and unhygienic
  • Tools and bandages were never clean
  • No understanding of germs and what they did
  • about 2/3 of paitents died from post surgical infection
  • effect - surgeons were afraid to operate for too long

The development of anaesthetics


  • first used in 1799
  • become popular amongst dentists
  • did not make patients completely unconscious
  • so, patients sometimes did not wake up


  • first used in 1846
  • irritated the eys and lungs causing coughing and sneezing
  • could catch fire if close to flame
  • horrible smell
  • unpopular with many surgeons

Why was Chloroform a good anaesthetic?

  • more reliable
  • it was odourless so not uncomfortable to use

Why did some people oppose chloroform?

  • 1848, Hannah Greener dies whilst being given chloroform…


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