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Sven Med Tidskr. 2007;11(1):89-93.

[The birth of modern surgery].

[Article in Swedish]


In ancient India and Persia surgeons were highly respected and their operating skill with nose plastic and catatact couching is documented. In mediaeval Europe surgery was classified as a handicraft profession and belonged to the barbers guild with the soapcup as symbol, much inferior to the academic trained medical doctors. In war surgery leg amputation after shotwounds demanded great rapidity, since no anestetic but alcohol was available. In the 18th century surgeons becamea accepted as medical doctors e.g. John Hunter in London and OlofAcrel in Stockholm. A great step in the development of surgery was Mortons introduction of eter narcosis 1846. Now surgeons could work carefully without hurry. The next step took Joseph Lister. Born in 1827 he studied medicine in London and then qualified as surgeon at the famous James Syme's clinic in Edinburgh- In 1860 he became professor of surgery in Glasgow. His clinic like all others was afflicted with suppuration, septicemia, erysipelas and gangrene. He happened to read a thesis by Louis Pasteur, who proved that fermentation and putrefaction in wine production were caused by bacteria. Lister saw the similarity with wound suppuration. Carbolic acid was used in wood industri to prevent putrefaction and Lister now introduced this as a mean to cure or prevent suppuration and septicemia. He washed the wound and soaked the bandage with carbolic acid, which he also sprayed in the air of the operation theatre to prevent air carried infection. In 1867 he published his experiences in the Lancet: Out of 11 complicated fractures (where the bone-ends penetrated the skin) 9 healed without complications. Earlier such fractures ended with dead or amputation. The wards were now free from infected wounds. Abroad Listers findings were received with entusiasm, Ernst von Bergmann i Berlin modified the antiseptic method into a aseptic one and sterilized the room, the instruments and clothes and could so avoid the carbolic acid spray, which was irritating for the surgeons breath. Lister applied the aseptic method from 1887. Abdominal and thoracic surgery now became possible and developed rapidly. In England his ideas were accepted with some delay. In 1877 he was appointed professor in London, was made a peer and president of the Royal Society nad was celebrated all over the world. He died 1912, 85 years old.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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