Healthcare Technology Featured Article

April 12, 2021

4 Technological Advances That Changed Surgery for the Better

Humans have been operating on each other for thousands of years. The archeological record contains many examples of ancient people performing complex surgeries. Surgery and technological advancement have always gone hand in hand. From the use of thorns to suture wounds to the latest in advanced surgical robotics – the technical innovation of humankind is put to use healing the body.

As surgical technology becomes more advanced, people are being treated for more complex ailments in less invasive ways. Surgery is an extremely broad discipline. We will only be scratching the surface of this subject.

Here are four key technological advances that have changed surgery for the better. Pass the scalpel!

General Anesthetic

Modern surgery would not exist without general anesthetic. During early surgical procedures, patients would have to be restrained. They would be fed alcohol, nitrous oxide or opium, but they would still be awake – suffering terribly.

In 1846, William Morton was the first surgeon to perform an operation on a generally anesthetized patient. Morton pioneered the use of ether inhalers to render a patient unconscious. His surgical gallery (which later become known as the etherdome after the breakthrough) was the site of a major surgical breakthrough.

Surgeons no longer had to worry about the patient squirming in agony while they undertook delicate procedures.

The Laparoscope

The laparoscope is essentially a very small keyhole camera with a long proboscis-like front end. It allows a surgeon to insert the front section of the camera into the human body without opening up a huge laceration.

This has facilitated the development of laparoscopic surgery – in which a surgeon uses thin instruments and a laparoscope to conduct surgeries in the least invasive way possible. Laparoscopic surgery has saved countless lives. There is less of a chance that a patient will hemorrhage, and the tiny wounds caused are far less susceptible to infection than sutured lacerations caused by conventional surgery.  

The Laser

Until recently, eye surgery was a risky business. The eye is an extremely delicate part of the body, and post-surgical infections have been known to lead to blindness. Cataract removal is a major field within eye surgery. Conventional cataract removal involved the incision of the corona with a blade, which was then highly vulnerable to infection.

Cataract surgeons today have an amazing tool at their fingertips that completely changes the game: lasers. First developed for surgical use in the 1980s, lasers allow for the sculpting and breakdown of tissue to be conducted without the need for any manual incision.

The Surgical Glove

It would be unthinkable to perform surgery without gloves in this day and age, and yet, until the introduction of the rubber glove in 1889, this is exactly what people did.

William Halstead of John Hopkins University commissioned the first pair, after seeing how sterilizing acids harmed the hands of his lover – a nurse. He unwittingly improved the lives of all future surgical patients and saved countless thousands of lives, and all in the name of love.

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