The Impact of Medical Technology during World War I

World War I brought major advancements towards Medical Technology. Because there was an estimated death count 10 million military individuals, doctors needed to learn how to improve a soldier’s chances for survival.

As amputation became the major solution to disinfect wounds on their way to the hospital, ambulances, antiseptic, and anesthesia emerged from the depths of suffering in the First World War.

Doctors faced the challenge of having no effective antiseptic to kill bacteria. On top of that, soldiers spent World War I living in the muddy trenches. If wounded, they were all the more likely to become corrupted with bacteria.

Théodore Tuffier, a leading French surgeon, testified in 1915 to the Academy of Medicine that 70 percent of amputations were due to infection, not to the initial injury.

Thus, doctors implemented new means to treat their soldiers quickly during the war time.

George Crile and his nurse of the American Ambulance Hospital, introduced anesthesia in Cleveland in Jan. 1915. Crile brought 3,000 gallons of nitrous oxide providing surgical demonstrations of nitrous oxide-oxygen mix, enough to put a patient to sleep, but not into a state of shock for French surgeons.

Medicine was needed to keep up with the new technology of war which brought more levels of carnage and devastation. Facial reconstruction surgery was also implemented for surviving soldiers that had their jaws and noses shattered by artillery fragments, so surgeons at the American Hospital and Val-de-Grace Hospital pioneered maxillofacial techniques, and at the same time, brought dentistry into the medical sciences in France.

Mary Merritt Crawford, who was the only woman doctor at the American Ambulance Hospital once was quoted saying on the devastation of war, “A war benefits medicine more than it benefits anybody else. “It’s terrible, of course, but it does.”


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