In the early days of medicine, an open fracture could be a death sentence for patients, due to the risk of infection.
But centuries of innovations by medical scientists, such as Drs. Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister, led to new ideas about wound sterilization, germ theory, anesthesia and antiseptics.
“We’ve gotten more sophisticated, but we still have these ideas about preventing infection and treating infection,” said Robert Vander Griend, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with expertise in foot and ankle surgery and an associate professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at the UF College of Medicine.
Vander Griend, a UF College of Medicine class of 1978 graduate, presented the lecture, “History of Antiseptic Principles in Medical Practice,” on Oct. 18, as part of the monthly History of Medicine lecture series.
He gave an overview of wound treatment that spanned Medieval European times up to the past century. As treatments developed, fewer amputations of limbs and more complex surgeries were conducted.
Many developments occurred during the 19th century. Vander Griend focused on Pasteur’s work proving the germ theory of disease, Lister’s study of antiseptics and English physician John Snow’s investigation of a cholera outbreak in London.
“Germ theory of infections were slowly accepted,” said Vander Griend said.
Now aware of the relationship between bacteria and disease, physicians began to wash their hands, wear masks and gloves in the operating room and sanitize their tools to combat infection among their patients.
“We still follow these antiseptic techniques today,” Vander Griend said.