Early history of wound treatment

Early history of wound treatment

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Early history of wound treatment

Forrest, Richard D. (Department of Internal Medicine, Centrallasarettet, Boedn, Sweden)

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Volume 75, March (1982)


Wounds cause pain, bleeding, disability and death. They have always been common and the problems associated with their treatment are as old as mankind and advances in the care of wounds have advanced the whole art of surgery.The history of surgery has been the history of wound therapy during the last four or five millenia and, despite the causes of the injury generally being obvious and the wound easily observed, it is only in the last two to three decades that the processes occurring in the wound and the factors influencing them have been understood.

The aim of wound treatment has always been to reduce the risks caused by the wound itself and to minimize potential complications. Pain, hadmorrhage, loss of skin continuity and tissue substance in a wound have tested man’s ingenuity throughout the ages.

It is difficult to find out how prehistoric man discovered the multitude of wound coverings, salves or ointments that were,in all probability,used. He probably observed that a covered wound bled less,or that pressure stilled a more serious haemorrhage.Certain plant extracts may have acted as styptics.Coldwater, snow or ice or the application of herbs or clay may not only have soothed pain but hastened healing. It can only be assumed that the selection of these substances occurred by trial and error over a very considerable time. The result was that a number of effective topical treatments had become available by the time civilisations began to appear about six thousand years ago.

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