How World War I Reshaped Modern Plastic Surgery
To understand the horrors of war, infections usually slay more soldiers than any shells, bullets or saber thrusts. The US Army’s mortality rate during the Vietnam war was around 2.6%, while those in the Crimean War was as high as 1:5. Doctors and historians tend to dismiss Florence Nightingale’s legacy of helping the wounded but her pioneering work during and after the Crimean War, shows that she played a key role in public health policy design, medical statistics, hospital design, management, nursing and patient care and deserves lasting fame as a medical pioneer.
The Crimean War did modernize Hospitals, Nursing and reduced sharply the mortality rate of wounded soldiers. With this knowledge, we now move on to how World War I was able to modernize Anesthesia and perfect plastic surgery, as we know it today.
Massacres in World War I
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination by a Slav named Gavrilo Princip in the city of Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 triggered the war, which continued for over four years with 37 million people losing their lives. 11th November 2018 marked the Centenary Year of the end of World War I and the signing of the Armistice by the Allied and German leaders, ending the 4.5 years of savage combat on the Western End, and effectively World War I came to end. The First World War (1914-1918) was ferociously fought on a massive scale and millions of young lives were lost in the fighting while many more lived with the trauma of facial injuries. But innovative equipment and surgery techniques that were invented, especially in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, ended up saving thousands of soldiers.
Until the First World War, people were largely unaware of what dangers were posed by wars, what horrific injuries one could sustain and how fatal arms would prove. Tanks, poison gases, heavy artillery, machine guns, and shrapnel filled bombs were used in World War I, which caused extreme damage to the bodies and faces of the soldiers. It was reported that by 1918, about 735,487 British troops has to be discharged due to major injuries, mainly caused by shrapnel and shell blasts. Soldiers sustained terrible burns and facial injuries which made it very difficult for victims to eat, drink, see, and socialize, as also making them look gruesome.
Pioneering Reconstructive Surgery
The soldiers and civilian victims, both feared summary rejection by their family members after they had lost their teeth, eyes, or parts of their faces in the war. Images of wounded and traumatized combatants on display across galleries and museums are still nerve-wracking to see. The soldiers suffered from severe PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, often because of their deformities which they had to live with. The extreme and enormous scale of injuries to the face and limbs prompted surgeons and doctors to seek out alternate methods to aid victims as they returned and adjusted to normal conditions after the war!
The British army had no solution and gave the ‘fixing faces’ responsibility to a young ENT specialist from New Zealand called Dr. Harold Gillies, who had enlisted in the Medical Corps. Soon thereafter, the first specialty hospital was set up in Sidcup, London, for treating approximately 2000 patients. It was said to be the world’s first hospital dedicated only to treat facial injuries. Dr. Gillies tried to fix faces partially destroyed by the devastating shrapnel bombs and grenades, calling it ‘a strange new art’. This painstaking process involved manufacturing prosthetics; fake eyeballs with color in them, false noses, etc. Usually, plaster casts of the injured face were prepared using plaster of Paris, from which a credible reconstruction of the face was made. Thereafter, a mask was prepared and fitted onto the patient and it was then painted with a skin color.
The Use of Anaesthesia in Surgery
With facial wounds becoming more complicated, leading to innovative ways of treating these wounds, the development of anaesthesia became more and more important throughout the war. The team at Sidcup Hospital developed a technique of passing a tube made of rubber to the trachea from the nose, as also working on the development of the endotracheal tube (from the mouth to the trachea) made from high grade commercial rubber tubes. Dr. Gillies was rightfully given the title of being ‘Father of Plastic Surgery’ and many techniques developed by him during World War I are still in use for contemporary facial reconstructive surgeries and even for the prosthetics.
The Great War gave the world novel innovations and pioneering teaching in increasing survival rates, patient safety and pain management, which have benefited millions, even to this day.
More in Plastic Surgery
Hilaria Baldwin was Pregnant with her 5th Child, and Knew that She would Miscarry
Hilaria Baldwin had a personal story to tell, and she shared it when she appeared in the Today show on April...May 23, 2019
Prince Harry Only Had 2 Hours of Sleep during Archie’s Birth
He may be a royal, but Prince Harry is just like any other ordinary new father, who experienced both the feelings of...May 22, 2019
The Truth Behind Cameron Diaz’s Pregnancy: Is She or Isn’t She?
Just in her 40s, Cameron Diaz made the life-changing decision of retiring from acting, a career she has nurtured since she was 21...May 22, 2019
Nina Dobrev Stuns Us in Her Eye-Popping Bustier Met Gala Dress
It’s that time of the year again, every first Monday of May; the famous Met Gala takes place. It’s been said that the...May 21, 2019
Gwyneth Paltrow Excitedly Shares her First GOOP Escape Retreat Experience
Gwyneth Paltrow could not contain her excitement about the first ever GOOP Escape retreat held at the new rustic but luxurious...May 21, 2019
We Bet You’ve Never Seen Megan Fox Look Like This Before
Fans of Megan Fox would probably not recognize her with her new look, but before you panic, you have nothing to...May 20, 2019
Baby #3 is on the Way for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds
When Blake Lively surprises people at the red carpet, it’s usually by wearing a jaw-dropping outfit, because the actress has become...May 20, 2019
The Special and Surprising Meaning Behind the Names of the Royal Babies
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle introduced the world to the latest royal family member on Wednesday, welcoming their first-born baby Sussex on May 6....May 17, 2019
Kate Hudson Shares Her Weight Watchers Experience After Giving Birth
Kate Hudson found a way to lose the extra pounds she gained during her third pregnancy, which is by becoming a...May 17, 2019