- Published: November 21, 2022
- Updated: November 21, 2022
- Language: English
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Joseph Lister was one of the outstanding surgeons of the nineteenth century. He had research gangrene and infections and had a keen interest in the application of science to medicine. By using Pasteur’s germ theory, experimented with carbolic spray acid, which was used to treat sewage. Joseph Lister is one of the pioneers of Infection Control. Not only did he reduce the incidence of wound infection by the introduction of antiseptic surgery using carbolic acid, but also he was the first to apply Pasteur’s principles to humans.
He showed that urine could be kept sterile after boiling in swan-necked flasks. He was the first person to isolate bacteria in pure culture using liquid cultures containing either Pasteur’s solution of turnip infusion and a special syringe to dilute the inoculum and so can be considered a co-founder of medical microbiology with Koch, who later isolated bacteria on solid media. Lister also pioneered the use of catgut and rubber tubing for wound drainage. Joseph Lister discovered the antiseptic method, in which a germ-killing substance is applied to wounds during an operation.
Joseph Lister discovered the antiseptic method, in which a germ-killing substance is applied to wounds during an operation. Work on ward cleanliness and the link between germs and good post-operative health had already been studied by a Hungarian doctor called Ignaz Semmelweiss. He argued that if a doctor went from one patient to another after doing surgery, that doctor would pass on to the next visited patient a potentially life threatening disease. He insisted that those doctors who worked for him wash their hands in calcium chloride after an operation and before visiting a new patient.
Deaths on the wards Semmelweiss was in charge of fell from 12% to just 1%. But despite this, he came up against the conservatism of those who dominated Hungarian medicine and his findings were ignored. Lister believed that it was microbes carried in the air that caused diseases to be spread in wards. People who had been operated on were especially vulnerable as their bodies were weak and their skin had been cut open so that germs could get into the body with more ease. Lister decided that the wound itself had to be thoroughly cleaned.
He then covered the wound with a piece of lint covered in carbolic acid. He used this treatment on patients who had a compound fracture. This is where the broken bone had penetrated the skin thus leaving a wound that was open to germs. Death by gangrene was common after such an accident. Lister covered the wound made with lint soaked in carbolic acid. His success rate for survival was very high. Lister then developed his idea further by devising a machine that pumped out a fine mist of carbolic acid into the air around an operation. Using this method, Lister drastically reduced death rates.
Like Semmelweis, Lister had to fight to get his methods accepted. Unlike Semmelweis, Lister gained acceptance and recognition within his own lifetime. Some surgeons complained that carbolic spray cracked their hands, soaked the operation rooms and made the room smell unpleasant. On October 26 1877, Lister, for the first time, carried out the operation under antiseptic conditions. News of the operation was widely publicized arousing much opposition but its eventual success forced surgical opinion throughout the world to accept that his methods greatly added to the safety of operative surgery.
Opposition was great In England and the United States mainly against Lister’s germ theory rather than against his “ carbolic treatment. ” People would often laugh at him but it was said the Lister didn’t pay any attention to there stupidity. I feel that Lister’s use of antisepsis was much less of a leap than Semmelweis’s. Lister had the work of Pasteur and Crooks from which to form his own hypothesis. Ignaz Semmelweis drew his assumption from pure scientific observation and experimentation. Although I do feel that Semmelweis has not received the recognition he deserves, I still believe that Semmelweis, and Lister, were revolutionary scientists.
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