Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To straighten the bones of children

By Richard P. Holm M.D.

The history of medicine is filled with stories of bonesetters, and in the middle ages they even had a guild. These people splinted broken bones with sticks, leather, and clay casts, and were separate from physicians and barber surgeons.

Then in the 1700s, Nicholas Andre’ a professor of medicine at the University of Paris, formally described methods to treat boney deformities in newborn children such as clubbed feet with splinting. He described similar methods used for the straightening of young tree saplings. Andre’ wrote a textbook on the subject titled L’Orthopedie. The ancient Greek word orthos means free from deformity, to straighten, to make right; and the Greek word paideia refers to the art of raising a child. Literally orthopedics means to straighten the bent bones of children. Together they provide for the name of a present day surgical specialty, but other things needed to happen first.

In the mid-1800s ether and then chloroform were discovered. Available and popularized during the Civil War, anesthesia made amputations a way to save lives after limbs were shattered from dirty gunshot wounds. It wasn’t until after the war that we learned of bacteria and discovered how antiseptic methods could prevent the need for amputation, and avoid infection after surgery. Just about at the same time, X-rays were discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen, which allowed for the marvelous and revealing image of our internal boney structure.

This all set the stage for expanding the orthopedic focus from just casting deformities of children. In the 1890s a well-known bonesetter from Liverpool, England, Evan Thomas encouraged his son Hugh to go to Medical School, and afterward taught Hugh bone setting and casting methods, which at the time were not being taught in Medical School. Hugh and his nephew Robert Jones worked together to develop orthopedic surgical methods in treating not just deformed children, but also bone injuries to construction workers, and then war injuries to military men during World War I.

And thus we have come from bonesetters, and straightening the bones of children, to the marvelous field of orthopedic surgery.

1 comment:

Nurse and Hospital Stories said...

"And thus we have come from bonesetters, and straightening the bones of children, to the marvelous field of orthopedic surgery."

Wow! Great history of orthopedic surgery, eh.

Thanks for sharing,
Peny@uniform discount