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July 10, 1915

A HALF CENTURY OF ANTISEPTIC SURGERY

JAMA. 1915;LXV(2):171-172. doi:10.1001/jama.1915.02580020037017
Abstract

In a review of the scientific features in the development of modern surgery, Lee1 has written:

With the discovery of practicable anesthetics, the battle was only half won. The operation itself had lost much of its horror, but the tragedy of the subsequent days was unchanged. There were the almost inevitable suppuration of the wound, the putrefaction and sloughing off of tissue, the sickening odor, the high fever, the danger of hemorrhage, the slow healing, the complications of blood poisoning, erysipelas, gangrene and tetanus, the physical and mental anguish, and the uncertainty of the final outcome. The mortality from major operations was from 50 to 100 per cent.

Today, on the contrary, the opening of the abdomen, the chest or the skull no longer is equivalent to signing the death warrant of the patient. Pasteur proved that fermentation and putrefaction were neither spontaneous, on the one hand, nor due to

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