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January 1997


Arch Surg. 1997;132(1):99. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430250101022

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In many respects, the recognition of antisepsis and asepsis was a more important event in the evolution of surgical history than the advent of inhalation anesthesia. There was no arguing that the deadening of pain permitted a surgical operation to be conducted in a more efficacious manner. Hastiness was no longer of prime concern. However, if anesthesia had not been conceived in 1846, a surgical operation could still be performed, albeit with much difficulty. Such was not the case with listerism. Without antisepsis and asepsis, major surgical procedures more than likely ended in death, as opposed to just pain. Clearly, surgery needed both anesthesia and antisepsis, but in terms of overall importance, antisepsis proved of greater singular impact. Following Joseph Lister's (1827-1912) introduction of antisepsis (late 1860s) there was much debate in the United States about the veracity of the whole system, and the great mass of American surgeons proved

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