Medicine has much to be grateful for to war, but I wish we’d find a peaceful way to make these advances.
Here are just a few
In 1718, Jean Louis Petit, a French surgeon, invented a screw tourniquet to control bleeding. The screw tourniquet made thigh amputations possible and reduced the risks associated with amputations below the knee.
Dominique-Jean Larrey (French Army, joined army in 1792) is credited with setting up the first field hospitals (though the golden hour wasn’t known, this provided quicker care) and “flying ambulances” to rapidly evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield to the hospital.
The trench warfare of WWI produced extreme facial injuries. Interdisciplinary teams (dentist, plastic surgeons, etc) set a standard for the care of complex maxillofacial injuries.
WWII saw advancements in treatment of shock. Colonel Edward Churchill discovered that shock was not only related to blood fluid loss but also to electrolyte loss. This led to improvements in intravenous solution preparation.
The Korean War provided us with advancements in vascular reconstruction and repair, better understanding of frostbite, and the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH).
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasing our understanding and treatment of head injuries and PTSD. They are also leading to major advances in limb prosthetics.
Thank you to all Veterans and active duty military for your service. Thank you to all the families behind these men and women.
For those interested, here is some additional reading:
CBS Sunday Morning (June 2006): The Medical Frontlines Of War-- Throughout History, Advances In Emergency Care Originate On Battlefield
The second sacrifice: costly advances in medicine and surgery during the Civil War; E. D. Weiss; Yale J Biol Med. 2001 May–Jun; 74(3): 169–177. (pdf file)
How the Civil War Changed Modern Medicine: The bloodiest conflict on American soil ushered in a new era of medicine; Emily Sohn; Discovery News, Apr 8, 2011
Medical advances consequent to the Great War 1914-1918; J D Bennett; J R Soc Med. 1990 November; 83(11): 738–742. (pdf file)
U.S. Military Builds on Rich History of Amputee Care: During every major conflict, combat injuries have caused large numbers of service members to lose one or more of their limbs; in fact, these individuals are one of the most visible and enduring reminders of the cost of war; Military inStep, 09/18/2008
Science Museum: War and Medicine
"Battlefield Surgery 101: From the Civil War to Vietnam"; National Museum of Health and Medicine (2004)
NHS Choices: War’s Medical Advances
The value of war for medicine: questions and considerations concerning an often endorsed proposition; Leo Van Bergen, Department of Medical Humanities, VU Medical Centre, Amsterdam (pdf file)
History of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, 1921-1996; Randall, Peter; McCarthy, Joseph G.; Wray, R. Christie; Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 97(6):1254-1292, May 1996
War Wounds: Lessons Learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom; Geiger, Scott; McCormick, Frank; Chou, Richard; Wandel, Amy G.; Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery. 122(1):146-153, July 2008; doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181773d19