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Orthopedics

Similarly, some South Australian tribes made splints of clay, which when dried were as good as plaster of Paris. Furthermore, bone-setting or reductions was practiced as a profession in many tribes, underscoring the importance of orthopedic injuries in early civilizations. The ancient Egyptians seemed to have carried on the practices of splinting. For example,2 splinted specimens were discovered during the Hearst Egyptian Expedition in More specifically, these specimens included a femur and forearm and dated to approximately BCE.

Other examples of splints made of bamboo and reed padded with linen have been found on mummies as well. Similarly, crutches were also used by this civilization, as depicted on a carving made on an Egyptian tomb in BCE. The School of Hypocrites wrote books describing traction, casting and bandaging.

They even recommended early mobilization for fractures. Clubbed feet were treated with strong bandages leading to overcorrection which was maintained for a significant period of time.

Orthopedics: A History & Iconography

The Greeks also recognized scoliosis as a problem and tried many prolonged but often unsuccessful treatments. Galen understood that the brain sent out signals to the muscles by means of the nervous system. During the middle ages, Italy maintained medical knowledge and it was the major center in Europe with the University of Bolgnia being founded in It still functions until this day as a medical school. John Hunter became the father of modern surgery with the study of anatomical specimens. Lister developed asepsis in the mids and William Warton discovered ether anesthesia in In the 20th century, rapid development continued to better control infections as well as develop and introduce novel technology.

For example, the invention of x-ray in by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen improved our ability to diagnose and manage orthopedic conditions ranging from fractures to avascular necrosis of the femoral head to osteoarthritis. Queen Isabella of Spain had organized the first field hospitals which were known as ambulances in but these truly came into their own following the two world wars, particularly in the Korean War and then in Vietnam.

By significantly decreasing the amount of time between the injury and treatment, many lives were saved. This advance along with the development of antibiotics made delayed primary wound closure and skin grafting of wounds a possibility. Spinal surgery also developed rapidly with Russell Hibbs describing a technique for spinal fusion at the New York Orthopedic Hospital. Similarly, the World Wars serve as a catalyst in the development of the subspecialty of orthopedic trauma, with increasing attention placed on open wounds and proficiency with amputations, internal fixation, and wound care.

Smith Peterson at Harvard designed the three phalanged nail which made possible the mobilization of people with hip fractures.


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One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of the highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen. The usefulness of rediscovering history and its educational value has lately become increasingly recognized [ 1 ]. It might be inspiring to understand the challenge of being a physician in a time when medicine was seen as a whole without boundaries of experience or specialization [ 7 ], or even knowing how a specific surgical procedure [ 8 ] or technology [ 9 ] became established in current clinical practice, or learning how they were taught by masters [ 10 ] who believed in new methodologies.

History | Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

You might be surprised to learn that current tendencies and ways of understanding treatment in our field, such as the concept of restoring or repairing tissue instead of removing it, were seeded centuries ago [ 11 ]. It might seem commonplace to state that looking at the past is helpful to understanding and improving our present and future, but being commonplace does not make it worthless.

Whatever whets your appetite in these papers, whether they are more in-depth studies [ 12 ] or even give you quicker insight, they will shine a light on the creativity and inventiveness of our rapidly evolving profession. Younger orthopedists need to be encouraged by feeling they belong to a medical category and tradition of ingenuity and innovation; they must be driven by ideas, examples of creativity and determination, dedication to work, and thus to finding new solutions and new points of view so as not to get lost in data charts and clinical routines.

They must be shown that our work is made both of inch-by-inch hardship and revolutionary thoughts. We therefore hope to share our enjoyment and renewal in rediscovering the roots of our profession and awareness of our role in the community, both as doctors and researchers. Therefore, both in digital and paper form, the journal Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy KSSTA will begin an exploration of the history of orthopedics, a commendable effort to spread and show inside our craft the most visionary experiences and important events of our history, to retain the memory of our past, and, in doing so, shape us into better doctors.

Skip to main content. Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. McCrae London: Oxford University Press.


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John Charnley: The Man and the Hip. History of medicine. Timeline of medicine and medical technology.

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