2020 Military Poster Presentations

MSSP585: SAWBONES TO SURGEONS: THE IMPORTANCE OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR ON THE EVOLUTION OF MODERN SURGERY
Timothy Webb; Virginia Commonwealth University

War has long proven an unfortunate catalyst for innovation in medicine. This is particularly true of the American Civil War as the conflict serves as a bridge from the dawn of scientific surgery to the modern age. The Napoleonic and Crimean Wars had introduced the concepts of triage, timely removal of wounded from the field of battle, and the need for professional nursing.

The American Civil War adopted and improved upon those concepts, and additionally marked the first widespread use of anesthetic agents, primitive treatment of hospital gangrene, and the concept of credentialing surgeons based on competency. Towards the end of the war, the complexity and success of operations was limited primarily by a lack of understanding regarding prevention and treatment of infection, a problem which would be overcome shortly after the war’s conclusion. With the introduction of aseptic technique, the surgical advancements either established or refined during the American Civil War led to the drastic improvement in patient outcomes and the evolution of today’s recognized surgical subspecialties.