The Use of Antiseptics in Operating Theatres

The problem of infection in operating theatres had been known about from the end of the C18th through the C19th.

    • More people were dying from infections acquired in the operating theatre than were dying of their ailments.
    • Florence Nightingale highlighted the need for a rigorous approach to hospital hygiene and Lister’s work with carbolic, changed the face of surgery in the UK.

During the 1870’s, Joseph Lister found that by spraying a fine spray of carbolic around the person being operated on and the hands of the surgeons, then the death rate from infection was dramatically reduced.

In 1879 Anthony Bell, a surgeon from Newcastle, patented a device for spraying a mixture of antiseptic powder and carbolic acid into the air.

This can be seen at the Science Museum in London.


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