I didn’t expect to recover from my second operation but since I did, I consider that I’m living on borrowed time.
These lithographs were created for American surgeon Joseph Panacoast for his 1844 book A Treatise An Operative Surgery (1805 – 1882). He was a leading pioneer in the practice of surgery, plastic surgery, in particular. Pancoast was responsible for most of the advancements in surgery that he describes and were so very depicted graphically.
An advertisement for the book revealed:
A treatise on operative surgery comprising a description of the various processes of the art, including all the new operations; exhibiting the state of surgical science in is present advanced condition; with eighty plates containing four-hundred and eighty-six separate illustrations.
Surgical treatments date back to the prehistoric era. The oldest evidence is trepanation, where a hole is drilled or scraped into the skull in order to treat health problems related to intracranial pressure and other diseases.
Surgical texts from ancient Egypt date back about 3500 years ago. Surgical operations were performed by priests, specialized in medical treatments similar to today. Infections were treated with honey.
Anesthesia was developed in the mid-19th century. Before the advent of anesthesia, surgery was a traumatically painful procedure and surgeons were encouraged to be as swift as possible to minimize patient suffering. This also meant that operations were largely restricted to amputations and external growth removals. Beginning in the era of Pancoast, surgery began to change dramatically with the discovery of effective and practical anesthetic chemicals such as ether.
You might want to be sitting down for the illustrations below:
Unfortunately, the introduction of anesthetics encouraged more surgery, which inadvertently caused more dangerous patient post-operative infections. The concept of infection was unknown until relatively modern times. The first progress in combating infection was made in 1847 by the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) noticed that medical students fresh from the dissecting room were causing more maternal deaths when delivering babies compared to midwives. Despite ridicule and opposition, Semmelweis introduced compulsory handwashing for everyone entering the operating room.
If you think this was a tough post to get through, I want you to know that I composed it while eating a banana.
All pictures in public domain