The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia website is a site developed for ODP's and Nurses who are interested in the historical development of the Operating Department.
It can also be a useful research site for those Surgeons and Anaesthetists who have an interest in history.
I have kept the site simplistic so that it will be understood by those of the general public who wish to explore Surgery and its history.
I would welcome any comments that would improve this site, so if for instance, you believe that someone of significance has been overlooked in the fields of surgery, anaesthesia or any other complementary field, then please let me know by either selecting Contact from the Navigation Bar.
The pages will show the evolution of surgery and anaesthesia through history until present day and highlights how fast techniques and technology have revolutionised surgery.
Time never stands still and before we know another future is upon us, forever changing our understanding.
Surgery has much to contend with in the future, with the diminishing effectiveness of antibiotics, and the ability of microbes to stay one step ahead, means that either we make a breakthrough in microbiology targetting the microbes ability to exist, rather than its ability to attach, or we innovate in infection control.
Fortunately, the future holds some very good prospects, for example: advances in computer technology, specifically quantum computers, will revolutionise our understanding of DNA and microbes, and will allow genetic defects to be targetted, negating the need for many surgical interventions. With these systems, microbes will also be targetted, allowing Artificial Intelligence to compute what a medicine should contain, and how it will affect both the bugs and the patient, millions of times faster than current bio-chemistry allows.
For now though we will look at the history.
When I first trained in the military as an Operating Theatre Technician, the history of my profession and of Surgery and Anaesthesia, was not taught or just considered to be of less importance. This subject has now become more popular over the years, with students now expected to have some idea of their professions roots.
This website will show the evolution of surgery and anaesthesia through history, until recent years, and highlights how fast techniques and technology have revolutionised surgery.
I have kept the details very simple to make it easy to read.
Time never stands still and before we know, another future has hit us, forever changing our understanding. When you read this, I ask you to think about how you will evolve as a profession and also how you will look in the future.
If you are a nurse or ODP in theatres, your job might change with you moving into the Surgical Practitioners role or if you are a junior surgeon how you might choose today to become an upper limb surgeon or a lower limb surgeon. If you are an Anaesthetist, how you might concentrate your career in ITU. The choices you make today will shape your future.
One must always remember the past, for at one time in my career, assisting surgeons by holding retractors, buzzing vessels and manipulating joints was part of my daily role, as was working in Sterile Services and even taking on the job as Plaster Room Technician.
Surgeons when I started, were general surgeons who use to do everything from laparotomies, craniotomies to Meniscectomy’s.
Anaesthetists had to work in every speciality that the theatres undertook with the added addition of ITU, Casualty and emergency and be on-call for all arrests within the hospital. I could go on, but you get the idea.
The idea for this web site came about when an anaesthetist called Brigadier Sanders asked me a question in my oral examination which was “How Old Is Magill?”   My answer was that I thought he was dead! This upset the Brigadier and led me to start studying the history of our profession.
I think it is right to ask the question "What is history and why is it so important ", well the definition is that "History is the intellectual form in which a civilisation renders account to itself in the past." 1
It was said, that: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."2 In medicine, we will not go forward, unless we at first look back.
Just over 160 years ago a Dentist by the name of William Thomas Green Morton successfully proved the anaesthetic properties of Ether on a patient at Boston University hospital Massachusetts USA. A newspaper article in London in 1846 commented: - “Oh, what delight for every feeling heart to find the New Year ushered in with the announcement of this noble discovery of the power to still the sense of pain and veil the eye and memory from all the horrors of an operation. ... We have conquered pain! "3
Not long after that day the doors of surgery were not just opened they were completely shattered. Operations that could never hope to have been done before; were now possible, and an untold number of people have not needed to endure the torture of a surgical procedure and many more lives have been saved as a result.
As Operating Department Practitioners and Theatre Nurses, we are valued members of a surgical team; our main aim is to ensure that the patient gets the best treatment while in our care within the Operating Theatre Department. Our aim is achieved by giving technical assistance to the surgeon, anaesthetist and other physicians.
It also requires us to directly treat patients, as one example, in the recovery room by administering pain prevention medication and anti-emetics.
Surgery has historically been described as "The art and practise of treating injuries, deformities and other disorders by manual and instrumental means."
Surgery is advancing rapidly, and we must keep up with the latest developments in equipment, technique and the continuing patient safety protocols which seem to change weekly.
General Anaesthesia is thought of as a completely controllable and reversible form of unconsciousness induced by drugs, so that a surgeon can carry out a procedure.
Anaesthesia is also advancing. The introduction of the ultra-sonic scanner to the profession has meant that more regional techniques are being performed in this country than ever before.
On a lighter note click on Normans Image to see how what it was like in Theatres when I trained in the seventies.(More Fun Then). Click on the back arrow to stop!
1 Johan Huizinga, “A Definition of the Concept of History,” In Philosophy & History. Essays Presented To Ernst Cassirer, In Philosophy And History. Essays Presented To Ernst Cassirer (Eds. Raymond Klibansky And H.J. Paton Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936)
2 George Santayana (1863–1952), U.S. Philosopher, Poet. Life Of Reason, “Reason In Common Sense,” Ch. 12 (1905-6)
3 The Peoples Journal Of London 1847 On Anaesthesia