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February 1982

Sepsis in Surgery: Presidential Address

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati.

Arch Surg. 1982;117(2):107-112. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1982.01380260001001

Infection has always been a prominent feature of human life, and sepsis in modern surgery continues to be a significant health problem throughout the world. For this reason, the Surgical Infection Society has been formed and is holding its first meeting here today.

It is appropriate that we review the history of sepsis in surgery throughout the ages. Surgery's progress resembles a long river, which is fed by tributary streams that join it at irregular intervals to swell its body, increase its depth, quicken its current, and extend its influence. Before 1800, tributaries were relatively uncommon, but since then a steady inflow of developments of historic significance have swollen the stream of surgical progress. Among these should be considered the following:

  1. Hippocrates, "The Father of Medicine," in 400 BC wrote clear descriptions of many conditions, including obvious infections such as gas gangrene and staphylococcal lesions.1 Curiously enough, however, Hippocrates